Thursday, May 31, 2007

Still Rising From The Ashes

Nothing beats coming home after work to a spot of joint taping. Meh. I'd forgotten how much I loathe, detest and dislike this bloody job. Still, no use sitting and complaining about it. That would only attract the coffee-fuled rage of Mrs Stevie, increasingly unstable as the date for a visit from Paul the Globetrotter - a friend who we see far too little of - approaches and the prospect of one more person kicking, biting and punching in order to claim the only functioning bathroom looms.

I went to Home Despot and picked up another small bucket o'spackle and got to it as soon as I got home. The first problem was that though I could find the nice clean 8 inch taping knife (cheap, plastic handle, steel blade) I could not find the nice 5 inch knife (expensive, wooden handle, stainless steel blade) or my cornering knife (expensive, wooden handle, specially shaped blade). I searched high and low but they were nowhere to be found.

Then I looked at the bucket of increasingly dirty water I use to clean off the tools during this pig of a job and an ugly suspicion formed.

Yes, my nice tools had weathered overnight and overthenextday in a bucket of water, waterlogging the wood handles nicely and probably starting the process of any non-stainless parts (handle rivets etc) rusting away. Thank you Mr Brain. Apparently I had put them in the water in order to clean them then become distracted for 22 hours. Wooden handles do not, of course, tollerate being soaked in water as anyone who has put a prized collection of steak knives into the dishwasher can attest. Never mind. What can't be cured must be allowed to fester, as they say.

I did the ceiling to wall corners and called it a filthy, rotten, scumsucking pig of a day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Special Guest Screw-Up

Today I have a tale of woe that doesn't involve me, except peripherally. No, I didn't drop another laserjet or sit on someone else's desktop scanner.

I get my breakfast1 from Jeff at Bagel Boys, a local bakery and deli counter. Yesterday, when I went to get my usual heartstopper special the metal shutters were down. Well, mostly down, with a two foot slot at the bottom. They were still closed for lunch, which made me fear that the threatened eviction had already happened2. But, as it turned out, things were much more amusing.

Apparently, Jeff, in a moment of weakness, gave everyone the three days of the holiday weekend off and closed up on Friday, then went home. In the early hours of Saturday, when no-one was around to see it, a thermostat obeyed Sod's Law and broke down. That might have just been inconvenient, but it happened to be the thermostat on the fridge in which Jeff keeps all his dough for the next baking day.

Matters might even then have not become seriously serious if the rest of the store hadn't been wall-to-wall refrigerators for beverage and milk storage, all of which were belching kilowatts of heat into the shuttered store. As a result, it got a bit hot inside, and stayed that way for three days until a staff member tried to open up the store.

Jeff says that bagels he had pre-formed on Friday were now over two feet in diameter3. That wasn't the bad part though.

The bad4 part was that he had stored large blobs of dough in the fridge too, and these had swelled and amalgamated into what he referred to as "The Blob". He also stated that the stench of the yeast (which was having a field day eating sugar and exuding carbon dioxide like it was going out of fashion) was "terrible". This from a baker. This yeast had had it so good for three days that it had already gone beyond the nomadic hunter/gatherer stage and was in the process of forming a democratic republic and developing high-temperature ceramics. Another day and Azathoth knows what would have happened.

He chopped up the dough over the course of Tuesday5 and put it into rubbish sacks (ten of them) and hauled them outside. Once that was done he settled down for a well deserved cigarette, only to leap up after a few minutes when the yeast, probably under the impression it was unobserved once again, began to party once more and the sacks began to swell alarmingly.

As he told this tale of woe and disaster I tried to keep a straight face, but when he got to "The Blob" I envisioned him as Woody Allen in Sleeper, beating off the giant instant pudding with a whisk broom and I lost it bigtime. I've been cracking up all morning thinking of Jeff beating back an enormous raw Bagel with a straw broom as it chases him from kitchen to deli counter.

For once I got to see what it looks like from the outside.

  1. And sometimes my lunch if breakfast has worn off too soon
  2. The landlord wants to throw out about fifty businesses and convert the block to high-proce yuppie flats
  3. A torroidal treat in New York. Take the index fingers and thumbs of both hands and make a circle, thumbtip to thumbtip, fingertip to fingertip, and you get an idea of the usual size
  4. i.e. good
  5. hence the little slot in the shutter to admit volumes of life-sustaining air to the counteryeast forces locked in a life-and-death struggle for supremacy in the bakery

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend - 72 Hours I'll Never Get Back

The weather this weekend, a three-day affair owing to Monday being a holiday in New York, was perfect for lounging on the beach or in the pool, so naturally I was scheduled to be wedged in New Bog taping the walls and cementing the floor.

Taping, for those who have never done it, involves joining the panels of sheetrock together with a reinforcing tape overlaid with a plaster-like joint compound commonly called "spackle". I would have to tape each corner, the join between the original walls and the new sheetrock, the slit I had running horizontally at 50 inches from the floor and every wall to ceiling joint. That last was a true joy since I would be taping to an existing finish, a textured one to boot.

Luckily I had a 500 foot roll of net-like self-adhesive fiberglass tape left over from Project Laundry Room 12 years ago. Perfectly aged, this tape was the absolute best thing to use. Sadly, the similarly aged spackle had hardened to a concrete-like consistency and had to be deep-sixed for some fresh stuff. A quick trip to Home Despot had me in possession of a new tub of spackle and a set of new taping knives (the proper name for the spreader-on-a-handle used to smear the spackle on the wall). The idea is that you put on a light coating of paste and embed the tape (or in this case, smear a light coat over the tape while it obligingly clung to the wall with its own sticky). Once that has dried, you use a five inch knife to smear a feathered layer of spackle over that, centered over the crack or join. Once that is dry you do it again with an eight inch knife, and again with a ten inch one after that has dried. Result: a wall that has an imperceptible bulge over each joint1 that you can't see when the wall is painted or papered. Most home spacklers forego this process, slather on the spackle with the smallest knife and sand it down, resulting in a bulge you can see from a mile away at midnight in thick fog while wearing welding goggles. Having come this far it seemed stupid to go that route.

There was also the question of the missing bit of the floor. When I laid the cement board floor, there was a little tongue of area not encompassed by it. This was the space under the door, between the jambs. The subfloor actually changes level at that point and the cement board cannot be worked to a "ramp" format without severe damage to tools and sanity2. I had put off deciding on the solution but matters were now come to a head and Action was called for. I decided to pull up the hall carpet metal-strip-that-hides-the-edge-of-the-carpet-and-acts-as-a-transition-between-two-floor-surfaces3, cover the carpet edge with masking tape to protect it and form a dam, then pour liquid underlayment cement into the gap and take my chances. So, I had a plan, I had tools and I had a three day weekend. Nearly. My friend Jeff the Kung-fu accountant and his wife had invited us over to see their new palace4, their old palace having been deemed "too restricing" for their plans. I don't know what these plans are, but my money is on inviting 4 more couples of acceptable income to move in and form a commune O'Kung-fu accountancy. Azathoth help us all. If the cable goes out they'll go tribal and start believing crop circles are signs that aliens are coming to take us to a better place. Once that happens, it's only a matter of time before everyone is drinking paraquat. I've seen it before and it's not good.

So the first unscheduled job was to fill the gaping slots where the corners weren't anything approaching square, vertical or confined to three dimensions. I reasoned that huge amounts of spackle would fill the holes, but would crack and come loose once the Stevieling started slamming the door. I decided some sort of keying was required and drove screws for the spackle to bind to before shoveling it in and smoothing it down. I couldn't tape until it dried of course, so I did the floor cementing while that happened.

The floor had been cemented over the cracks and screw head holes, but I had used the wrong cement which turned to powder when rubbed with a hand. I was advised to recoat everything with underlayment cement, and so I did. I also poured about a pint of liquid cement into the door-jamb hole and it worked rather well if I do say so myself. Once the cement was dry I reflected that all my hard work was not in vain, even if I did need to reskim a couple of areas and knock off a couple of inadvertent blobs that I'd missed. I idly ran my hand over the cement and was rewarded with a swath of powder coming off the surface. What luck! The underlayment cement also turns to powder when rubbed. The spackle still wasn't dry by 5pm so I knocked off work, cleaned my tools and took a shower. So much for Saturday.

Sunday morning I put the sprinklers out on the front lawn. I decided to repeat last year's success with the metal rainbirds6 and broke out the two new sprinkler heads I bought a few weeks ago. I needed to do this because during the first lawn mowing of the season I had discovered that I had stored the sprinklers on the lawn edge at the end of last season. The lawnmower wasn't damaged but one of the sprinklers (which had done a damned fine job I might add) got radically redesigned and was rendered inoperable as a result. Chalk one up to Mr Brain's7 long-term planning there.

Another of Mr Brain's japes became apparent when I came to open up the timers to fit new batteries. It seems that, for the first time ever, I forgot to remove last years batteries and, of course, one had burst and leaked everywhere forcing a time-consuming clean-up. I finally got everything clean and fitted together properly and began the tiresome process of setting up the sprinkle pattern. This involves starting the water at the side of the house, walking round the house approximately 355 degrees8 to get to the sprinklers on the other side of the fence then getting soaked as each sprinkler insists of spraying me as often as possible while I swear and fiddle with little wire trip levers and the like. The neighbours stand around in their gardens critiquing my technique as I work. It is all very festive. I dressed for the part in swimming trunks and an old tee shirt. What a pity I forgot to remove my cell phone from the pocket of the trunks though.

Then it was off to Jeff the Kung-fu Accountant's palatial place. And it was everything we had anticipated. Large, with a side order of roomy, fieldstone wall with fireplace, underground bunker complex. brick patio and most vexing, nothing broken at all. Not so much as a leaky tap washer. What kind of home is this? I checked for missing grounding spike (has one, about as thick as my ring finger), loose siding (siding new, vinyl, fitted professionally) arcing electrical sockets (none I could see) or missing stair treads (oak, oak stairtreads all present and correct) but none of the things that have made Chateau Stevie what it is to me were in evidence. I consoled myself with thoughts of New Bog and retired to their basement (finished, bigger than our house and with more rooms than it too, wet bar) for dinner9.

Monday found me doing more taping while reflecting on my inner wealth, but I had to stop because my sobbing was making the spackle all wavy and I was leaving dents in the new wall with my head. I had forgotten how long it takes to do this taping, how long it takes even thin layers of spackle to dry when you are in a hurry, and how much I loathe spackling. I got to the six-inch knife stage before quitting for the day (in my defense I did more cementing on the floor too) at which time Mrs Stevie insisted on going to see the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, just released this weekend.

Now, I usually do not go to movies in their first weekend because I hate the crowds and the morons I have to share the theater with with a passion. People in New York are selfish with a capital self and I cannot stand the little flares of cellphone screen illumination I have to suffer if things don't explode every five minutes. Since the marching morons usually fade away in the second of third week of a movie, that represents the best time to see them in my opinion. Mrs Stevie, on the other hand, was having none of it. She was somehow afraid that people would ruin the plot of the movie for her by talking about it before she'd seen it, so we simply had to go this night.

It was everything I expected, and more.

From standing on line forever to not being able to get three seats together to the idiots in the seats next to us being a group of four teenaged boys who spent the entire movie text-messaging with their Motorola Quartz-Halogen display devices. I had to ask them three times during the movie to please angle their searchlights away from me so I could see the screen. Why on earth do kids go to movies to do this? I am not exaggerating at all when I say that the kid next to me spent all but one action scene playing with his damn text-messager. Given that they wanted the ambience of the movie to engage in their social interaction, why take up a row of seats halfway down the theater? It must've been driving anyone seated behind them crazy. Why didn't they sit in the back to not watch the movie?

I don't know what we're coming to. People don't seem to have any common sense of decency when using cell technology. They drive like maniacs while putting all their attention into their cellphones. They screw up other people's cinema experience. They ruin a restaurant meal with their squalker phone buffoonery. Only last week a guy was attacked on a Ronkonkoma train for having the nerve to ask another young guy to turn down his squalkphone. Of course the attacker was arrested at the next stop and it is kinda funny that he was less intelligent than his cellphone10. I was threatened by another gimboid a month ago for having the nerve to complain about his phone, which he had turned up so loud he had to hold it away from his face and shout at it. Douglas Addams11 said a lot of snarky things about people and technology like digital watches12, but the real idiocy is people and their f***ing cellphones. Pick up a cell phone and loose 50 points off your I.Q. seems to be the rule. Deduct another 25 points if it is push-to-talk or specialized for text messaging. I'm beginning to hate New York all over again. F***ing techno-hicks. Cell phones bring out the trailer park in people.

Back to the movie. It turns out that Mrs Stevie's fears about having the plot spoiled for her were groundless on account of a) there were about fifteen plots, none of them important enough to sustain the movie, 2) Nobody in the cinema had the time to watch the movie, what with the text messages and having to buy candy, eat candy, drink soda and go to the lavatory, and γ) I doubt anyone would remember enough about this movie to describe it coherently afterwards even if they switched off their comms infrastructure, adopted a healthy "eat nothing and sip water" policy and wore a catheter. What a bunch of crap.

Warning: Spoilers

It started promisingly, with the team out to recover Jack Sparrow from Davy Jones's Locker (just go with it: we're talking about a movie derived from a fairground ride after all). It sidetracked into some mumbo-jumbo about "Singing The Song" which was hinted to precipitate some sort of climax. Cut to Johnny Depp in hell. Very good scenes here. And if they'd made that the main subject of the movie, the Orphean "Rescue the Hostages" bit, they'd have had a winner right there, with the requisite "cut scenes" for future ride ideas. But the director was working under a lot of riders: The cast were only signed for three movies and this was number three.

We had several plot elements to tie up in this movie: Cap'n Jack was in hell, and everyone had resolved to get him back. The East India Company had the Heart of Davy Jones. What would they do with it? Elisabeth and Legolass: Would they finally do the deed? Cap'n Barbosa - resurrected but for some reason not put down-able again even though he was shot to death in the first installment. They could have gone for four movies, they had material for another one and a half, but there was that awkward three movie deal clause so they went with making the most confusing and annoying movie they possibly could.

Mrs Stevie tried hard to defend the decisions taken in this film to me on the way home when I was the only one to admit that I thought the movie stank (everyone else was "disappointed") but even she couldn't come up with a good reason why, when the East India Company puts the chest with the heart of Davy Jones in it on board Davy Jones's ship with a heavy guard primed to blast it (the heart) to smithereens if cooperation isn't forthcoming, Davy Jones doesn't simply submerge the ship and drown all the non-undead aboard and get back to what he does best.

Will Turner spends the movie betraying one person after another, but unlike when Jack Sparrow does this, no-one in the audience cares. Why spend two movies setting up Will Turner as the good guy then try at the eleventh hour to make him more than the personification of honour? It is all supposed to come from the dichotomy of him having to rescue his dad yaddayaddayadda. No-one cares. When Will Turner starts acting against type, no-one believes it. Dad is, after all, someone he barely knew and is now an undead, barnacle encrusted horror of the deep. Ah, but the director is trying for realism, attempting to make these characters three dimensional. What a colossal waste of time.

Don't even get me started on the Calypso, Goddess of the Ocean thing that was so monumentally important it could have been removed from the movie and on-one would have noticed. It was all like a bad game of D&D. Half thought-out plots you could dismiss with a wave of the hand and a wisp of common sense logic.

No Steviestars, for either the movie or the Weekend in general.

  1. At the cost of having 20 inch spackled seam, of course
  2. for reasons expounded upon here
  3. The name of which escapes me for the moment
  4. Our house would fit into their basement with space left over5
  5. I'd lay real money that Mrs Stevie could fill it with crap in less than a month, even so
  6. As told here
  7. Mr Brain is not my friend
  8. Turning a slothful three foot journey into an aerobic 150 foot safari
  9. I think I made pleasant conversation, but it was hard to do so while grinding my teeth and shedding tears of jealous rage. My bar had been left behind in our apartment when we purchased Chateau Stevie
  10. Though I doubt the guy who was attacked saw the irony at first
  11. Famous throughout the western world for The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
  12. Actually, he harped on about this so much it stopped being either insightful or funny in short order

Friday, May 25, 2007

On Serendipity With Special Reference To Buying Music And The Sadness That The New Paradigm Brings

I had a rare moment of pleasure yesterday.

I have been struggling with a new piece of technology, a particular "Open Source" package that has received much good press but unfortunately is leaving me high and dry in a few key critical areas. I was never so on the bleeding edge, even when I worked for a Microsoft Strategic Partner in the heady days of the Windows 95 rollout. I expect future generations will have it easier.

Anyway. I finally hit rock bottom the day before yesterday when the online documentation (generally thought of as being a strength of the OS world1) refused to divulge a fairly basic piece of information no matter how I phrased the search query. I did a bit of digging, both at work and at home and found that there was an O'Reilly book that covered the missing information. For those lucky enough to not have derived income from the cowing of recalcitrant computers, O'Reilly is a publisher that produces computer and IT books, mainly concentrating in the Unix and Unix-like2 world but covering a very wide field. O'reilly books have a good reputation with most people, though I have found them a bit patchy and uneven in content of late since I've been forced to use them more and more, and I've never had much time for most of their Windows books3. For some subjects they have been, for years, the only game in town if not the best, and they are well made and can take much use. They come in at around $45 apiece generally, which makes them very much a "company pays for them or we do without" prospect usually. This time I couldn't wait and so I went into Manhattan for an extended lunch hour search for the book. Which I found in the Union Square Burns & Nobble, and now that I've gotten us into Manhattan, plausibly if boringly, we can forget about computer books.

On the other side of Union Square sits a massive Splurgin Records store, and when I'm in the area I always drop in with my little want list of eclectic hard-to-get music for a spot of opportunistic shopping. Today I would be looking for "Hummingbird" a little-known album put out by Wakeman4 and Cousins5. I had seen a promo on a Strawbs video I got last year and it sounded good. I looked under Wakeman's shelves and couldn't see it. I was about to move on to the "C"s and "V"s6 when I idly flipped one of the CD-sized deviders on another shelf and there was the only copy of "Hummingbird" in the store and in all likelyhood on the island of Manhattan too.

That gave me a little glow inside. I was hopeful but not expecting to find it when I went into the store, was disappointed but unsurprised that it wasn't where it should be if they had it in stock and then really happy to find the only one they had by accident. I get the same feeling when I find a hard-to-locate book during a general browse. I got it every time I found one of the missing B.C. collections, and when I found a missing part of a multi-book set in a second-hand market stall back when I was a poor ex-student with hardly any dosh for luxuries. I can't describe the sensation. It's like a combination of happy and smug and surprised.

I haven't expeienced the rush for a long time because all I have to do to find that rare recording or that missing second volume of a Jack Vance trilogy is to boot up the family one-stop pr0n portal and fire up Google. I hadn't realised that I had lost what was formerly a big part of my shopping experience either.

It's that great that I can just get the stuff I want that I forgot what the serendipidous find felt like.

  1. Next to the fact that it is free, of course
  2. Next to the fact that it is free, of course
  3. The problem is that O'Reilly books are written by and large by people in the Unix community, many of whom just don't "get" how Windows computers are used. For example: A book entitled Windows Annoyances urged the reader to get rid of the "My Documents" and "My Computer" icon from their desktop, clearly not grasping why they were put there in the first place. The exception that proves the rule was the first edition of "ASP In A Nutshell", an outstanding volume for its time
  4. Rick Wakeman, Keyboardist. Ex Bowie, Strawbs, Yes
  5. Dave Cousins, Guitarist, Vocalist, Songwriter and frontman for The Strawbs amongst other things
  6. "Cousins" and "Various". Keep up!

The Life Aquatic

I've been cleaning, testing, balancing the pH, chlorinating and vacuuming the blessed pool for about two weeks now.

The pool is, it cannot be denied, a massive pain in the wotsit. It requires constant attantion or something goes wrong. Leave it for a couple of days and the leaf strainer will clog with the would-be offspring of the young maple that provides that bucolic swimming-hole ambience, the floor will become littered with all sorts of crap, the water will turn cloudy (not had that one for a while: we're due), or my personal favourite: the ground fault protection will flare into protect mode necessitating a trip to the basement to reset it. Sometimes it must be entered to retrieve dropped components (such as the lid off the leaf skimmer) and no account can be taken of the low temperature the water attains for all but two months. It is all very irksome. Lots of work for no personal payoff, inasmuch as I rarely get the opportunity to use the damn thing when I am at home. All that work, just so the Stevieling and her pals could mess about on a bunch of inflatables while dad gets relegated to whatever job needs doing around the house.

It was not to be born. Action was called for, and I decided that it was time to try the water out by actually entering it last night.

The night was hot and muggy, a foretaste of things to come in the dog days of August. I badly needed to shed some heat on account of my manly layers of fat keep it in rather too well and I was about to pass out. So I lowered the ladder1 and took the plunge, letting out a brief (but falsetto) scream as the soles of my feet registered the water temperature.

When I recovered consciousness a few seconds later I discovered that I could cut glass with my nipples, my skin had turned blue and my "lads" were residing somewhere just under my diaphragm. I immediately diagnosed that the water was still a little cool for comfortable bathing and clawed my way back up the ladder to the blessed heat of the air, vowing to put the solar cover on the pool tomorrow.

So much for swimming.

  1. At the end of the season before last, I got fed up with how the Pool Robot of Extreme Uselessness kept wrapping itsef around the old "stepladder" style ladder, and I replaced it with a small deck with a ladder that can be swung up out of the water and locked into a horizontal position. Against all expectation, the idea has proved extremely workable, apart from the so-called "brass" hinges theat Home Despot sold me going rusty. So much for the vaunted "Stanley Pledge of Quality"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Theyse Nyuse Paypuhs Are A Rum Do An' Now Mistayke!

If the New York Daily News team ever come up with the secret of making their newsprint stick to the paper they will become giants in the field of comunication.

Every time they run one of their all-black front page "specials" I end up looking like Dick Van Dyke in his "Chim-Chimmuny Chim-Chimmuny Chim-chim Cherroo" routine.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Now That's A Pretty Song

Cold Frontier by Show of Hands. From the album Cold Frontier.

Wonderful guitar work, great lyrics, Excellent vocals. Lucky find in my case. Mrs Stevie had it sent to her when she entered some kind of suspicious internet raffle promotion. Under such circumstances, it was bound to be naff.

'cept it wasn't, not at all.

It's All About Connery

So, I'm reading this account of the Allied move on Arnheim in WWII.

It's a period of history that I am quite interested in and the story presents an operation that was breathtaking in scope and in the lack of wherewithal in the planning stages. An object lesson in "always have a back-up plan" if ever there was one.

The plan involved a combined assault using British paratroopers to strike far behind enemy lines while allied infantry and armour made its way through Holland by conventional means. The objective was to secure the numerous bridges criss-crossing Holland before the pesky Germans could blow them all up and stall the allied advance towards Germany. If it had been successful it would have knocked months off the war's duration.

Unfortunately, Monty (the architect of the plan) had very much put all his eggs in one basket and the relief columns proved not up to the task for a variety of reasons including the usual incompetences: poor planning, communications infrastructure breakdown, intelligence shortfalls and the like. As things deteriorated the famous Red Berets were surrounded and huge numbers of them were wounded and had to be left to the tender mercies of the German forces when they reasserted their control of the areas invaded. It is a rip-roaring story of gallantry in the face of defeat.

Or should have been.

Successive editors had removed most of the backstory giving the reasoning behind the plan in the first place.

And the biographies of the leading players in the field.

And any discussion of the relative merits of the armour available to the two sides.

And the analisys of the intelligence shortfall that placed a panzer division directly in the path of the advancing allied infantry where there was supposed to be two guys with a badly-oiled machine gun.

I finally gave up on the book when I realized that all discussion of the actual objective had been excised from the book as politically incorrect. I hurled it away from me with a bleat of disgust at the editorial process that had taken a fairly straightforward story of brave men put in harm's way by their backroom generals and made of it a bland account of how some guys had stupidly parachuted into Holland and got themselves shot up.

The editors had abridged too far.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Getting My Teeth Into It

Yesterday, Monday, I was scheduled for a tooth cleaning which required I take off from work. It was that or reschedule the tooth nonsense into July, when the dentist could find a non-work-clashing appointment. Things have reached a pretty pass on Long Island with dentists able to dictate terms to would-be patients on account of the fact that despite it being more lucrative than Cocaine running, there simply aren't enough dentists to go round.

As a child I would have viewed this situation with a certain amount of glee. Of course, given the state of my diet and my teeth, that state of mind would last about 6 months. I seemed to need fillings about once a year on average. I digress, as usual.

I used the opportunity to get proactive. The weekend had proved a bit of a loss, New Bog wise. Only one wall had been finished owing to the need to do a couple of jobs I forgot to do before putting up the fiberglass insulation. That entailed taking bits of the fiberglass insulation down so I could put things right and the days just got away from me. I had ended up on Sunday night totally exhausted from the dash to catch up, and was not at my best during compulsory entertainment courtesy of the Stevieling's Church Youth Group. Two teams of earnest youths had organised some improvised entertainment that was about as much fun as the toothache had been four weeks before. The Stevieling's group "sang" a song so badly it was genuinely impossible to discern any of the four tunes they were attempting to parody, one after the other. Then there were some sketches, most of which appeared to have been conceived while playing Pokemon video games and attitude set in in Mr Brain. Indeed, by the time the youth warden had finished his interminable summing up of the year's activities I was of a mind to kill everybody in the whole world if they didn't let me go and relax on my sofa for a bit. You are all very lucky that events ended when they did.

Back to Monday, then. I had to take off the morning, and I figured that I might as well take the day off and get caught up.

First off was the visit to the dentist for the cleaning. All I can say about that is "ow". Or, to put it more accurately:

Then it was off to the endodontist to resolve a paperwork problem. He had submitted form asking approval to do the root canal he actually did (and for which I paid him) so that my insurance company would send him more money that he would then send to me. This is all much simpler than a national health plan remember. The insurance company promptly went off-script and sent the "OK to drill" to me, requiring me to go over to the Endodontist and get a signature and date of service attestation. Which I did. The day was positively oozing productivity.

Then I returned home and fitted the remaining wall of greenboard. Once again I cut it in half (roughly) to accomodate the rhombohedral shape of the wall more easily. You can see from the pictures that the corner was running out by quite a bit. Anyway, I couldn't have carried the entire board up the stairs no matter how much I wanted to avoid a seam in the wall.

That done I did some laundry, smeared myself with honey, watched some Swedish "educational" videos, licked everything in the fridge and played "Victoria's Secret Catalog Shoot" with the underwear in the hamper. Then I regretfully tidied up and showered before the Stevieling came home from school.

The Stevieling has been working on a project for her Spanish class, a slide show on Columbia, in which she has shown some encouraging signs of being a chip off the old block. She had downloaded a plethora of pictures of Columbia for use in this powerpoint project but, because her access to the internet is strictly controlled by netnanny software which blocked references to Columbia, Central America (presumably because of the death squads, drug cartels and so forth), she had inadvertantly concentrated on shots of places in Columbia.

Columbia, Maryland.

Which is a beautiful place as I can attest from personal knowledge, and from where I'm standing a much nicer prospect than Columbia, Central America. The death squads are much more discriminating in Maryland for example, and kidnappings are at an all-time low. Anyway. Showing a delightful lack of insight from such subliminal cues as the accompanying text being entirely in English she assembled a prodigious array of incorrect visual aids and would surely have gone down in the annals of that Spanish teacher's all-time memorable students were it not for the interferring of Mrs Stevie, who insisted that the whole thing be done over.

To get around the vexing problem of the references being blocked (and what we are talking about here is Google hits being blocked), Mrs Stevie decided against examining the firewall settings for a breathtakingly simple plan of giving the Stevieling her, Mrs Stevie's, sign-on credentials. Elegant. Simple. Completely counter productive, as we shall see, but that's neither here nor there. The women of the Steviemanse don't hold with educating themselves about their computer equipment and are adamantly proud of that.

The first product of this new largesse was that the Stevieling complained that all the sites in Columbia (Central America) were in Spanish. It was, of course, entirely unreasonable of her teacher, her parents and the entire nation of Columbia to expect her to actually read any Spanish in a project set for a Spanish class. The next was a suspicious period in which the Stevieling locked the computer room door while she "checked something". I put a stop to that in short order but of course the damage is done. What is the point in me providing software to watch the Stevieling while she is on the web if someone goes and gives her an adult account to play with? I pointed this out to Mrs Stevie who thought she might change her password.

If I would just show her how.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Suffering For My Health And Their Art

So the allergies became intolerable around three days ago, enough for me to swallow what little self-esteem I had left from the weekend and demand an appointment with Doc Rubberglove. It meant taking an hour and a half off work but what the heck. I was falling asleep at work due to not getting any in bed1.

The doctor listened to my complaints while fondling a box of extra-heavy duty latex gloves and agreed that maybe a shot was in order. I was initially dubious about allergy shots, but my allergies have gotten progressively worse as the years have gone by and now I get a variety of disabling symptoms including:

a)"cobblestones" under my eyelids that cause my eyes to leak a superglue-like gunge while itching to the point I want to claw them out of my head
2)Sneezing to no effect as far as the itching sinuses are concerned
γ)An athsmatic-like wheeze that eventually develops into a bronchial cough

One year I bowed to the doctor's wisdom2 and accepted a shot, which cleared up my symptoms like magic. Ever since, I've gone that route when it all becomes too much to bear.

The doctor filled his hypodermic with medicine of allergy curage and shot about 2ccs into my left bicep. It may have been my quadricep. What do I know? I just use my arms I have no idea how they work. I remarked that it was unusual for an intramuscular shot to be that painless. Doc Rubberglove just smiled enigmatically and said "give it time", before prescribing a bunch of other stuff for me on his pocket computer and submitting the 'scrips to my pharmacy via wireless networking. Gotta love technology.

On the drive home I suddenly became fully cognisant of the doctor's sense of humour, when the injected muscle let out a howl of protest. Actually, I let out the howl. The muscle just hurt like I'd been kicked by a bad-tempered horse. Perhaps this was a way of hinting that I have made more than my fair share of visits to Rubberglove Medical Associates Inc. of late.

Anyway, after that I went to watch the Stevieling perform in her choral group at school (the visit to the doctor meant that for once I was actually home in time to catch her part of the evening musicfest). School music evenings, especially the end of term ones, involve the full monty with each musical organised gang getting to do three (usually) pieces. A typical program involves the Seventh grade orchestra, the Choir, the Eighth Grade orchestra and last of all, The Band.

For the uninitiated or for those who went through the English equivalent of this sort of thing I will provide the following clarifications. An orchestra in this context is not a full orchestra, but just the string section. The Choir sings accompanied by a pianist. Sometimes the members of the choir, being small in stature and light of voice get occluded by the piano (which for reasons that I've never understood must be positioned right in front of the Stevieling wherever she stands) and generally drowned out by the damned pianist who is usually so dense that he doesn't "get" that a concert grand is designed to be heard from a distance and therefore can be played more softly than by emulating a ton of iron being dropped from twenty feet onto a metal rail gondola. I know this because I've confronted the gentleman on one occasion. Not only that, he seemed oblivious on that occasion to the fact that we were there to see the kids and not him. I digress. The band is the missing bits of the orchestra, and performs march-style because, well, they are also a marching band during sports events.

Now I have sat on the other side of this social equation as a youngster (when I was first French Horn player in the St John Backsides Comprehensive School Orchestra) and as a consequence I cut these young musicians-in-training a lot of slack. That said, I've been listening to them perform for three years and can make some observations on account of I'm due.

The strings suffer greatly from the wild swings of heat and humidity New York goes through in a given year. My own autoharp will slide a full semitone out of tune in the higher registers from one season to the next if I don't play (and tune) it regularly. That, combined with the lack of frets on the instruments, conspires to render the sound in a manner that needs some sympathetic interpretation on the part of the listener to fully equate with the composer's vision of whatever piece is being vivisected performed. There is something about massed violins played by people who cannot agree on an exact tuning or fingering for a specific note that defies description. The experience has improved over the years, but it is still sometimes an effort, and I don't like music I have to work for as my first choice in entertainment. This evening they rearranged the program so that both orchestras played consecutively. I'm thinking it was to get it over with at the moment, but no doubt time will mellow that thought and render it more charitably.

The Choir were superb, despite the choice of material by the boob in charge. The Chorus (to give it its proper title) is taught by a woman with some very definite ideas on how to do the job. Ideas that can be summed up as "unfathomable". The Stevieling has been marked down every semester in Chorus (despite being a prize-winning vocalist) because she does not show "appropriate enthusiasm" for the teacher's mandatory pre-singing calisthenics. I've been tempted in the past to point out that if the music teacher is teaching P.T. (UK P.E.), maybe the head of the sports department should be teaching the singing. Moving on.

The band were, unexpectedly, superb too. They were good last year, and appear to have gone from strength to strength. Now this could be truthfully said to be my least favourite part of the evening's offerings normally, but these kids blew my socks off. Whatever the teacher is doing, they need more of him to do it in the other departments. The Band wound up by playing that awful Celine Dion thing from Titanic with vocal support from the Choir (whom we could almost hear above the brass section) and then came a surprise. The part where we got to go home had been replaced with a performance of three pieces by the school jazz band.

I've often said that had I been exposed to more musical forms than just classical, I might still be playing the French Horn. I heartilly approve of this innovation in the music program, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that these kids (who ranged over all grades, from sixth to eighth) were bloody good at what they were doing. Not Charlie Parker good, but good nevertheless. It was a great way to finish the night and I enjoyed it immensely.

Except for the fact that the bloody parents sitting in the audience would not shut up.

Why these idiots even bother coming is beyond me. They clearly don't enjoy what their child is trying to show them or they would shut the **** up and listen to it. Band playing? No problem, just shout over it, and look mortally offended if anyone wanting to listen to the music tells you to belt up. Would it really kill these idiots to keep quiet for an hour and a half? I see more and more of this sort of thing. I honestly think people have forgotten how to behave in public. Gah!

The Stevieling and her mother decamped afterwards to a dance recital dress rehearsal, so I was dumped to fend for myself. I did this by accompanying my friend Lenny to Friendlies, a local burger and ice-cream parlour. Usually, it is a good choice when you have kids in tow (which Lenny had). This night, however, was Run the Restaurant Incompetently night and it took an hour and a half to get done. I wouldn't have minded but I only had an ice-cream sundae because it would be a "quick" meal. Gah!

I rounded off this evening of near-miss entertainment by getting a phone call from Mrs Stevie suspiciously demanding to know my whereabouts as I was walking up the path to our front door. It was well past 10pm by then and the rehearsal was over, blowing my "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" plan to matchwood.

  1. The asture reader will read volumes into this statement concerning the current state of affairs in my personal life. That reader would not be entirely wrong. Stress, the Stevieling's presence and Mrs Stevie's refusal to wear sensible, ventilated night attire have pretty much redefined the music of the night to inadvertantly setting the radio alarm four hours too early
  2. Not to mention about seven years of medical school (on a scholarship from Goodyear Medical Supplies) and years interning at various hospitals

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Baby Steps Are Still Steps

Progress (of sorts) was in good evidence last weekend in the hallowed precincts of New Bog.

I finished putting up the 3/8ths inch sheetrock furring that underlies the real walls and brings them level with the exsisting wall1 and began setting the greenboard walls in place.

Well, one wall anyway.

The wall I chose to do first was the one that would cover the cunning pipework I spent all that time around Christmas installing. This meant that the wallboard would need to be shortened to 87.5 inches from the 8 feet it was made to be, then a five foot by two inch strip removed to accomodate the little strip of old wall I planned to tape to. Why not the full length? Because the bath is installed against the original original wall, and no thicker wallboard was left when I pulled out the flood-ruined section. The board would also have to be contoured around the 19 inch by 12 inch plywood backer that I fixed the pipework to, and a further 10 inch slot cut out to accomodate the wastepipe of dirty water removal. Oh, and the little rectangle just to the right of that for the electric socket junction box to poke through. I measured all these slots and holes out and made a plan on a piece of paper, then got Mrs Stevie to help me wrassle one of the greenboards onto the front lawn for the actual cutting with a Stanley utility knife. I got everything cut out nicely, but during the cutting of the hole for the electrical socket junction box I managed to snap off one of the tab-shapes I had cut.

"How very unfortunate!" I cried2.

Fortunately the green paper side didn't tear though, and I was able to use some masking tape and some really powerful swear words to reinforce the rear (broken) surface and make it didn't happen.

But what, I hear you cry, about the hole for the medicine cabinet?

Good question! I decided I would cut that after the wall was in place. That way the edges would be flush with the framing.

And in theory that should have been it. The strip of old wall was cut to be plumb and the floor was level wasn't it? Wasn't it?

As it turned out, no it wasn't. It was a teeny bit unsquare to the wall, enough to screw up the final measurements by about a quarter to 3/8ths of an inch. Bugger! What I should have done was measure from a chalk line snapped halfway across the wall surface and tapered the wall in accordance with that.

I dithered for fifteen minutes and decided it wasn't worth the trouble, and Mrs Stevie helped me haul the board up the stairs and into New Bog for the final fitting. Unfortunately, the wall would not lift into place, but jammed against the ceiling on one side. I dithered a bit more and reluctantly concluded that I would have to cut the board in half horizontally, and so I broke out Mr Spiral Saw and did that. The two pieces then slid into place without any trouble at all. The cut allowed the upper sheet to slide over by about 3/8ths of an inch which was enough for the upper corner to fit properly. The kerf cut by the saw shortened the board by just the right amount to remove the height inaccuracy too, it seems. A few screws, a little sawing and cutting with the Stanley knife to cut out the hole for the medicine cabinet and it was all over bar the post-job clutching of aching body parts while swearing.

The real surprise was that the electric socket junction box hole lined up exactly with the box itself. In all the years I've tried to get this right I've succeeded around never.

If this keeps up I shall be inelligible to join The Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain.

  1. Which has tile on it that I don't want to tear out. Keep up!
  2. Or words to that effect

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's Not Just Me Then

A story reported in The Register today relates the following tale:

Argentinian commuters have expressed dissatisfaction at their country's privatised rail services, by last night indulging in "arson, looting and fighting" following rush-hour delays at Buenos Aires's Constituçion station.

By jove, these Argentinian chaps seem to have come up with a response to poor service that might even give the nitwits in charge of the Long Island Rail Road pause for thought. The story goes on to reveal the following detail:

Train operator spokesman Fernando Jantus explained that the service was interrupted "because a train broke down just outside the station, preventing other trains from leaving". He correctly observed: "The problem happened at the worst moment."

The parallels are eerie. Only last night, just after I had confirmed to Mrs Stevie that I would indeed be home at my usual time, my train ground to a halt that lasted 30 minutes making a liar out of me. The explanation given was that a car had hit the grade crossing barriers and the debris had to be dragged clear.

I wonder if we would have so much trouble with our commute if every delay was greeted with the debarkation of the passengers followed by an extended campaign of Hunnish looting and infrastructure incineration? Would Mineola be such a black spot of delays and time wastage if the next train to be stopped there caused part of the town to be razed by infuriated Wall Street analysts and IT personnel? Would Amtrack blithely stall their trains in front of an incoming LIRR peak hour express if it meant they would be commandeered and wrecked by Visigothic accountants? I think not. What a pity that most New Yorkers, for all their "in yer face" bravado, don't have the Latin temperament.

It's difficult to assign blame for last night's fiasco to the LIRR rather than the idiot who couldn't keep his bloody car aimed in the right direction for the twenty feet or so needed to get back to the blacktop, but I'm trying hard.

They are always culpable in some way.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

There Is No Problem That The LIRR Cannot Make infinitely Worse

So, as a result of my favourite credit card being refused by the LIRR TVMs1 I have been using another card I rarely use. In fact, I hadn't used it at all since buying my first computer system with it in '96. This has resulted in the inevitable - Mr Brain forgot to pay last month's bill.

The first I knew about this was when I got this month's bill and was surprised to see that it was dunning me for a significantly higher amount than the cost of two tickets plus a late fee. As punishment for earning me a penalty I ordered Mr Brain to calculate the overage, and after much clanking, grinding and a couple of bursts of steam from the old earholes I figured it out to be about the cost of a monthly LIRR ticket.


I dug around in the mountain of crap that is my filing system and located the bill for April and sure enough, the LIRR had charged me for two tickets. Different transaction IDs on each entry, so it wasn't a simple double charge (which happens all the time and usually gets fixed before the bills come though). No, this looked to be the work of the TVM fiasco of last month2, probably when one of the machines timed out during my attempt to buy a ticket and announced it wasn't taking credit cards, only to put itself back online again seconds later.

I immediately contacted the credit card issuing bank to try and get a chargeback, but their semi-automated system put me on old forever then hung up on me. Which gave me time to reflect and come to the conclusion that this time I might actually give the LIRR the benefit of the doubt and attempt to use their internal procedures first. Nothing ventured, as they say.

I called the number listed on my statement, but was informed by an answering machine that they only dealt with people between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday. I'm not sanguine about the response time during lunch hours either. Still, I left my name and office number so they could call me back and let it lie for the weekend.

Monday I had a dental appointment to get the crown properly cemented in again, so was unable to check my messages. When I came out of the dentist's office, imagine my surprise to see they had tried to call me back on my cell phone (but had left no message). Today I came in to find a message on my machine with a name (christian name only) and a number for me to call them back.

This story will continue in a later post, since that's all I know for now.

  1. As a result of events related in this entry
  2. During events related in this entry

Monday, May 07, 2007

Progress, Of Sorts, On New Bog

This weekend I finally figured out how I was going to apply fiberglass insulation behind the pipes of water delivery and drainage, and so I once more took up my trusty tools and resumed working on New Bog (a project largely moribund for three months, abandoned in favour of sitting on the sofa and shouting at everyone). With the fiberglass in place I did a bit more amateur electrickery, then cut and applied the various bits of 3/8ths sheetrock that will provide the furring that will bring the greenboard sheetrock wall out to the same level as the Genaro-era tile wall.

Apart from accidentally running the spiral saw into a perfectly good greenboard and inflicting some unwanted but superficial damage on it, nothing untoward happened to me, and as a result this posting perhaps lacks a certain je ne sais quois. I can't help that; I refuse to make up stuff simply to sate the jaded appetites my readers1 have for incidental stab wounds and impromptu electricution.

It's not as if I wasn't trying either. In between working on the bathroom I fitted in a number of "quick" jobs that all had plenty of potential. On Saturday I vacuumed and shredded all the leaves that had wintered around my swimming pool. Since I still cannot locate the leaf bag for the leaf blower/vacuum/shredder, I was forced to deploy it in a most promising configuration in which the leaves or whatever else got sucked up the snout of the vacuum would simply exit through one of the blower tubes at about mach 4. Shredded leaves would simply disperse over the lawn, but the vaccum is strong enough to pick up a number of other items. Even so, I finished the job unhurt. No rock was picked up, accellerated to hypersonic velocity then hurled against the siding to riccochet against soft tissue or hard bone. Even the little present some cat had left was spotted in time to avoid a messy debacle.

Then I decided to syphon the stinking green mess2 from the pool cover in order that the damn thing might actually dry off enough to be removeable. True, there was some slight splashing from the run-off, which has about a two-foot drop to the ground from the syphon pipe, but at no time were my shoes filled with green slime. Go figger.

I removed the glass from the rear strorm door and replaced it with a bug screen but didn't drop the glass or put my arm through the screen. I inflated the tyres on Mrs Stevie's bike and that of the Stevieling. Four tyres, 50 lbs per squin apiece, in close quarters too yet no exploding innertube ruptured the Steviedrums, newly free from wax after Doc teaspoon's ministrations.

It was, all in all, a bafflingly safe weekend.

It might have had something to do with the fact that for 90% or the time I was alone in the house. Mrs Stevie took the Stevieling and three of her pals to some kid-mecca in which for the cost of a small framily sedan children may climb rock walls, ride roller coasters, hold laser duels, play video games and generally avoid having any sort of learning experience whatsoever. They went out a 9 am and returned after 11 pm, and thus I was given a glance, just a glance, of what paradise must be like. On Sunday they decamped for organised religion and after they went for bike rides.

Now I'm a natural sceptic and give no credence to the theory that women somehow cause "bad luck". Sailors believe in that sort of thing, but then again, sailors believe in mermaids, tattoos, rum and something called a "hornpipe". Clearly their judgement cannot be relied upon. No, I believe a man makes his own luck. It is, however, entirely credible that the women of my household form some sort of negativity focus which draws malign anti-handyman spirits which in turn make stuff go wrong.

The facts speak for themselves.

  1. All four of 'em
  2. Steep several pounds of dried maple leaves in water over the winter. Drain periodically and allow rain to re-innundate. When water turns green, syphon into a tureen. Serves 12
  3. The original version of this post was much better, but just as I was finishing up I accidentally brushed the ESCAPE key and the bloody browser threw the entire thing away. Now that's good design

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Majestic Grand (Root) Canal

The bloody crown (covering tooth #191) gave me so much gyp over the weekend I nearly sawed my own head off and, as a last resort, made (and kept) an emergency dental appointment. As you can tell, things had gotten desperate.

This tooth has periodically bothered me for a couple of years but has the annoying tendancy to stop being problematic the second my backside hits the dentist's rack chair. Even with numerous X-rays and the rather lower tech method of banging on the tooth with the handle of a dental mirror the damn thing would be just fine for another six months or so before flaring up. Intolerable.

Finally, the wretched tooth began hurting for real on Thursday. I figured out that it was sensitive to heat2, and managed to control the pain by rinsing the area with ice water. While waiting for the water to ice down I would alternate between biting down on a small rubber ball while screaming quietly and begging for death.

Thus passed the weekend, for which the Stevieling had been consigned to a retreat for bloody annoying teenagers and which had therefore been allocated to the private intimate goings on between myself and Mrs Stevie for some time now. We tried not to let it bother us. Indeed, Mrs Stevie (who tends to ignore me most of the time), mistook my shrieks of agony for screams of pleasure during some of the more intese moments. I reasoned it was probably better not to correct her misunderstanding, although there were times I longed for the sweet oblivion her large skillet used to bring3.

The dentist rapped, banged and X-rayed, all the time humming merrily to himself, but failed to uncover the reason for the pain. Luckily I had a backup plan: I had also made an appointment to see an Endodontist (a specialist in root canal surgery). This proved fortunate since the dentist who had put the crown on about 15 years ago had forgone the root canal process at that time. He may have been put off by the way I had inadvertantly reached out and crushed his scrotum during the crown procedure. I don't know. The Endodontist couldn't see me until Tuesday, which would also require I take a day off work.

In the meantime I used ice water to reduce the pain and tried taking Tylenol, which proved to be about as much use as a one-legged man at an arse-kicking contest. Pain relief :- nil. I eventually took Ibuprofin, contra-indicated by Doc Rubberglove since there may be interactions with my other meds. By that time I didn't care and was viewing death in a positive light anyway. Things had deteriorated to the point that I wasn't far from salvaging an ice skate and a good sized rock and having a go myself.

The Ibuprofen actually worked like a charm and I finally got a few hours of sleep. Naturally, the one thing that works is the one thing I'm not supposed to take under any circumstances. Figures.

Tuesday dawned and I removed my watch before showering, something I rarely do4. When I came to put it back on there were no numbers, cascading arrows, blinking colons or any of the other things that mean "watch working" in todays world. The battery had obviously finally gone flat. Not a good omen, if I believed in such nonsense. Of course, there is no sense in taking chances especially on a day that offered intense pain anyway, so I span round three times anti-clockwise while throwing salt over my shoulder and kissing my lucky rabbit's foot. Pausing only to don my lucky underpants, lucky socks, lucky T-shirt, lucky jeans, lucky amulet, lucky bifocals and lucky sneakers I left for the Endodontist. On the way there I pondered that a lucky rabbit's foot isn't very lucky for the rabbit.

I have had problems all my life with pain during dentistry, and it always hurts to have a dentist do dentistry on me even after several applications of whatever magic numbjuice they keep in their syringes. I can honestly count the number of painless dental procedures I've had on the fingers of one hand5, and I have British Teeth™ that required extensive filling with copious amounts of mercury amalgam by the age of 14. In a typical visit, the dentist applies anaesthetic, drills, pries my hands from wherever I have managed to grab him6, applies more anaesthetic, drills for as long as he can while dodging my frantic attempts to claw his eyes from their sockets, applies more anaesthetic, straps me down, dons ear protection and drills as his expensive chair gets clawed into ribbons and I attempt to bite the end off the drill. It is all very tedious.

The Endodontist, who looked to be about 12, determined by using his state of the art computer X-ray rig7 and by banging on every tooth in the area with the handle of his mirror8 that I needed a root canal. I said that was ok and warned him that I might need a second application of anaesthetic but he waved away my concerns. I warned him that I was a tad nervous with any dental procedure, and the prospect of having the living, probably infected nerve tissue pulled out of my tooth with a bent wire hook had me more tightly wound than usual. He smiled and told me it would all be ok.

And it was. He injected me about thirty seven times, pulled off the crown (commenting that it was a nice job and he wanted to save it if he could) drilled and at my first twitch immediately applied more face-be-loose. It was the second painless surgery I have ever experienced. Even the soreness I expected after my face shrank back on my skull was a fraction of what it should have been.

And afterward, I got the first good night's sleep I'd had in days.

This morning I woke after a night of unbroken sleep, glanced at the blank face of my watch and wandered into the living room to check the time. The clock, one of many we have around the house, read 7:30. I yowled at the Stevieling, who was watching cartoons, to get her mother up and I tore around the house collecting various commuter impedimenta before leaving for my train.

As I drove I remarked that the traffic was blessedly light. I heard the news come on the radio signalling the turn of the hour, and reasoned that I had missed my 8:01 train so I might as well get a watch battery, which I did. I had to drive around a bit because most of the stores were inexplicably closed. When I returned to my car its clock read 7:09.

"That can't be right," I thought. "The bloody clock must have reset when I turned off the ignition."

I turned off the ignition two or three times to see if I could spot the fault on the clock as it happened but it didn't. Then I was blinded by the stupid light bulb that appeared, burning at full luminosity, above my head. I grabbed my cell phone and opened it.


Mr Brain clanked, whirred and got quite hot for a bit and the answer dawned. The clock I had used to get the time when I woke up must have been the only one in the house that wasn't adjusted for daylight savings time.

I drove home and explained the danger to everyone. Their relief at not having been caught in this trap themselves caused them to laugh hysterically. I could have wished that it had manifested differently. A passerby could easily have mis-interpreted the situation and thought they were laughing at me.

I used the time to whip the back off my watch and install the new battery. Numbers appeared. Arrows zoomed about all over the face. Colons blinked encouragingly and I set the time. Then, holding my breath, I pressed the button on the bezel face and was rewarded not with the numbers fading out as they had so many times in the last thee years, but by a bright blue light. I would once again be able to tell the time in the dark! Huzzah! I could finally stop carrying the large four-cell mag-lite with me to the cinema. The bulge it causes in my clothes has resulted in more than one misunderstanding in crowded cinema ticket lines. The cost savings in not having to treat injuries sustained as a result of checking how much longer a film would run would be a welcome addition to my wallet too.

Working watch and working teeth; it doesn't get much better than this.

  1. Numbered after the fashion of the system in the NY dentist Secret Code Book For Teeth. Lower, left, rear molar
  2. By drinking a cup of tea and then hopping round the room while clutching my jaw and screaming
  3. Now replaced by a new pot deemed too fragile for hitting me with. The space-age NASA-developed teflon coating has also been deemed too fragile to withstand frying eggs in so it would seem to be destined to gather dust. Good news for Mr Head
  4. Take the watch off, that is. Showering is, I assure you, a regular and frequent event for the manly Steviebod. I often use soap, too
  5. And not counting the fat, opposable one or the one with the ring on it either
  6. I'm not being sexist here and assuming all dentists are male. It's just that word gets about in the dental community and no lady dentist of sound mind would place her anatomy within clutching distance of the Steviehands during a procedure (I've been known to leave fingerprints in steel while being drilled). This says something about the intelligence of women compared to that of men
  7. No mucking about with film and developer for this child of the new millennium. He took the X-ray and it appeared instantly on his chairside, touch-sensitive computer display. It was like having my teeth drilled on the bridge of the Enterprise
  8. Even on the Enterprise the classics never go out of fashion