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The Chemist

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Something that has been playing on my mind was the visit when we picked up the notorious stain. We were out in the countryside and decided to pop in on some relatives (theirs, not mine) and met an odd Czech man called Tom who grew a lot of chillis and even had some chilli jam/jelly which he made me try.

Anyway, he was staining the front doorsteps of his porch, well, had just finished, which we spotted when leaving. My mother-in-law exclaimed, 'oh, how lovely!', meaning the colour. Within five minutes Tom has banged a lid on the pot and put it in the boot of our car whilst bemoaning the fact that you couldn't buy creosote in Canada.

'In my home country, everything is painted with creosote,' he tells me, 'when I was growing up our garden had very high walls, all painted with creosote and topped with razor wire.' I looked confused at this and he clarified - 'To stop people stealing the flowers.' Very reasonable.

Now I think back though, I think I have a memory of him saying something like, 'This is a mixture of linseed oil and some other things, it is very good.' Now, add to this fact that there is no linseed oil on the number #81 tin, and the fact that he is a chemist by trade, and you have a home-made stain in a thirty year old tin....



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The Three Kings

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The first big pub night since our return. Venue: The Three Kings in Farringdon. This is an old haunt from out last life in London, and I have memories of standing outside in the street on warm summer evenings, sipping Guinness in the road. The pub is so small that there are never any seats, I reflect as we take the tube there.

A series of slowly awakening memories stir as we exit the tube and I remember the station - the dual stairs that lead up, a pointless redundancy, I always think. Then the streets outside. I thought I'd have to call for directions, as my mind was blank as to the details, until we walked along the street. A map slowly was retrieved from my spider-web brain and we followed it to the pub without incident.

Rounds. I'm having trouble with rounds somehow since I got back. I always feel like I'm in the middle of a pint when someone buys a round. So I'm unable to buy more than one round before the same guy is buying me more beer. I don't remember rounds being so tricky for the first 12 or so years of my drinking life in England. I suppose it is how a tourist feels when obliged to join in with the odd system. I made myself feel better by buying the 11 o'clock half pints at the end of the night.

I find that I'm still in the habit of drifting off into space during conversations, so used to, am I, not understanding the French that they are normally conducted in Montreal. Of course, drifting off during an English conversation just looks plain rude, or as if you're bored to death. None of which is really true.

A few pints of Old Speckled Hen. Mr. Beer pulled a peculiar face at this choice and sucked in air between his teeth.

'I can't drink that, it's too strong. It gives me the shits.'

'Really?' I say, sipping it carefully.

So I'm drunk anyway, but so is everyone else. Mr. Fish pulled out his thesis and showed everyone some interesting quotes, explaining what a neo-Marxist was, as compared to a plain old full on Marxist. From what I gather, neo-Marxists don't demand a revolution exactly, but just generally like to criticize current government policy from armchairs (or barstools). Of course, I'm probably wrong.

I, in turn, drunkenly explain the difference between England, Britain and the UK, as one of the Quebec drinkers didn't know (and nor did anyone else, so it seems). After my explanation, May, the schoolteacher amongst us says,

'Yes, but what's your country then?'

Good question.

The night draws to a close and people wander off to nurse hangovers-to-be.

On the way home we purchase outrageously expensive falafels from a gaff on Stroud Green Road (it shall remain nameless) which was truly, truly awful. The wife, a mayonnaise lover if there ever was one said,

'It almost put me off all mayonnaise for life, the stuff on that.'

At home, apart from the falafel, there was a terrible smell. Much cupboard opening and sniffing was done in order to find the source, but to no avail. It was a truly awful smell, which only served to further the misery of the falafel. We never actually found what the nasty smell was, and the next morning it was gone. To give you an idea (though, it is impossible to describe), it was like a cross between burnt hair, beeswax, old curry and semen. Just imagine.

On other fronts, I'm finding that I can't stop talking English now - asking in shops how much is this, what's that, how does this work, what's the time, is that the 134 to Crouch End? Etc. In Montreal I'd tend to stifle such questions due to the inevitable conversation that would ensue with the Francophone pulling pained faces as I spoilt their beautiful language. The kind of face you'd pull if forced to listen to white noise, at full volume, at 4am.



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Finally back

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Back. Finally back. After three years away, and seven countries later, we arrive at Heathrow at 7am, after leaving Montreal at, oddly, 7am. I've watched, and god only knows why, a Harry Potter movie, and drank a few Gin and Tonics. I'm feeling rather tired as I stare out at the drizzle and grey clouds.

We pass through customs without too much of a problem. One man had begin to question me about what I've been doing for the last three years, and was getting suspicious, eyeing our oversized suitcases with some anticipation. I was starting to sweat, knowing that my suitcase had taken three days to pack like that, and that no way would I fit everything back in if I removed it now (an entire computer was lurking there, amongst other things). Luckily, an unlucky African man wandered into customs at that point, looked scared, and then tried to walk back out, a move which prompted almost all the customs officers in the area to pounce on him. My customs official thrust my passport back into my hand, and waved us away. We vanished quickly.

A train ride, staing at BBC on a TV, and the drizzle and grey clouds, then a black cab to Finsbury Park. The driver, a cheerful man, told us all about the Royal family, obviously mistaking us for tourists, he drove us in ever increasing circles, all over London on our way there. I was too tired to protest.

Beck was at the flat, ready to greet us. The flat is big and empty. When we unpacked our suitcases, after Beck left us, we realised just how little we brought with us. A few bits of clothing, some bathroom things, a lot of towels and sheets, and nothing else (except for a sewing machine and computer, of course).

So, I wanted to make a note of all that I found odd on my return, so I wouldn't forget later as things started to look normal again.

Changes

Wet. Yes, it is rather wet isn't it. The sky is always grey and threatening to drench you. Strangely though, since arriving we've only seen rain once, but the roads and pavement have been saturated the whole time.

Leaves. The trees still have leaves here. These things are long gone in Montreal.

Wind. There always seems to be wind blowing here. The trees move. In Montreal, I've come to realise, it is hardly ever windy.

Grey. To be honest, I was imagining it to be much greyer than it really is. The last time I spent any period away from the UK was in India, and upon my return I thought the colour had drained from the country. This time things looked a lot better.

Money. The money (notes that is), however, did look a little pale. And different. Maybe they've changed it?

Damp. The wife used to refer to the English cold as Humid. I have since explained that we only ever refer to humidity and weather when talking about a steamy rainforest. It is damp though. Having been brought up on this moisture-laden weather, I find it easier to handle than Canadians, who find that it penetrates them to the marrow and causes them much misery, no matter how many layers of fleece they wear.

Cold flat. Our flat is chilly. All flats in London are chilly, and even houses (unless they are your parent's or have a roaring log fire in them). Even with the heating on full-time, there is an air of damp coldness every morning. In Quebec they have to endure minus 40 degree winters, so their heating is super-efficient. They find our flats and houses unendurable, I think.

Hot water. It isn't very hot is it? And we have to turn it on in advance. The water in Montreal comes out of the tap at temperatures that cause second degree burns. I'm not simply moaning here, it's true, and even in the poorest of apartments this is true. I think it's the harsh winters that makes this such an essential there, but less so here.

Radio Stations. Hundreds of them. Most of them playing some kind of R n B or Garage type of noise. Good choice, but I find I spend more time scanning than listening.

Shops. We arrived on Sunday and everything was closed. This came as a bit of a shock.

Tubes. My, those platforms are narrow aren't they? I found myself standing with my back to the wall a lot. Then, on the news later, we saw a psychopathic man caught on CCTV trying to push people off the edge.

Beer. My god, bitter tastes good doesn't it? And beer seems to have remained about the same price as when I was last here. It is actually cheaper to drink here than in Montreal. No, really.

Traffic. Fast cars, narrow roads, on the left. We almost got knocked down several times in our first day. We have also been training ourself to look before crossing junctions, and to walk behind cars waiting to pull out. If you try this in Montreal the drivers start to panic and may even try and reverse to encourage you to walk in front of them.

TV. There are more adverts than 3 years ago. 100% sure. And more often too. There still seems to be a bewildering amount of snooker being shown.

Mobiles. We got mobiles the next day. They're the same price as ever, but in colour and tiny. We also managed to get them up and running in the pub within 10 minutes. Quite a feat.



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Stained

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Out, damned spot. And so on. I know it seems like all I ever talk about is my bloody decking saga these days - the job I'll be doing in Hell for all eternity, no doubt, but here it is again. Take heart though, it should be over soon.

So, today I arrive bright an early, as it's a sunny day for a change in these days of incoming winter. I sweep the deck and open up my stain tin, only to notice (make that remember) that it's almost empty. Never mind, I think, I'll go and buy another afterwards...

So, I stain away, doing about six foot square and then run out. I extract $100 from my mother-in-law, which is, I must confess, a large sum, but I did give change. And away we're off to RONA, a kind of Canadian B&Q, which is a kind of English, ah well, you get this idea - a DIY store.

I have cunningly written down everything written on the tin, in French and English, to assist in getting another, as I can smell trouble. I search the aisles for about 15 mins without luck, I'm searching for 'Behr' products, and they don't have any.

'Non.' Says the sturdy looking assistant. 'Behr? Reno Depot'. And turns and swishes away.

A fifteen minute drive to Reno Depot, where I suspect I'm well known due to the many, many hours I've spent wandering around the place looking for things and refusing to ask for help. I mean, the place is enormous, it has taken me months to map it out even.

But I know where the stain is, as I've seen in when buying the stripper (kind of ironic eh?). I can't find the product. I'm looking for Number #81.

I approach an elderly assistant, so elderly that he has the right to be insolent to me and I merely smile back.

'Bonjour monsieur, vous avez... cette... ummm... vous parlez anglais?'

He eyed me and literally spat, 'un peut!' Then, 'et vous - vous parlez français?'

'A little!' I tried to spit too, but it doesn't work so well in English.

So, he looks at the paper I offer him like I've wiped my arse with it already and laughs, 'Number 81! Ho ho ho!'

I don't share the joke. 'So you don't have it then?'

'Oh no monsieur, they stopped making that years ago.' At this he actually goes to turn and walk away.

'Is there anything else similar?' I ask, and he almost wobbles his head, a-la Indian style, and walks me to my choices, stopping on the way to balance a heavy can of paint on a shelf, precariously, above an old lady's head.

He sells me a tin called 'Red', when what I wanted was Redwood / Red Cedar. I suspect the match won't be perfect, but what choice do I have?

Back at the ranch, I apply the stain, it looks a little different but not too bad. The mother-in-law comes out to look. She agrees that it looks the same. I'm pleased.

But it doesn't look the same when it dries... oh no. It's dark brown, and the old stain is bright red. Oh bollocks, I muttered, walking up and down to look at it in different lights.

There's also another problem - I neglected to read the tin this time, foolishly assuming that it would be the same in application, but no, oh no.

Apply one coat. The old stain was two.

Paint each plank length to length to avoid 'lap' lines. The old stain didn't care.

Sure enough, there are 'lap' (I assume that's short for overlap, saving the use of four letters) line all over the place.

I decide to fix it in the spring.



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Sawdust

Thursday, November 18, 2004

There’s sawdust everywhere. It’s in my hair, under my nails, in the fabric of my clothes, in my nose, my ears, between my toes, and generally settled in my lungs. Not the nice kind of sawdust that you plunge your hand into to grab a prize at a lucky-dip, oh no, the finer kind, the dust and airborne kind. Yes, another day with unlikely sanding machines.

When I met my mother-in-law today she informed me that we were going to hire equipment form another vendor. This struck me as suspicious - had the last people said something about the sander and she had just not mentioned it? As it turned out, she had decided to change as she didn’t want to see me bending over for another five hours with a belt sander, so she had another thing in mind, something she had seen used by workmen in the past - the upright sander.

Imagine a vacuum cleaner, but more severe.

So, another burly, overall-clad, condescending man later, we hauled an extraordinarily large and heavy sander-vacuum-cleaner into the boot of the car. It was very, very heavy. As is (now) usual, the man had shown me how to load the sanding paper onto a large roller in a casual, non-informative way and curtly dismissed us.

True to form, we couldn’t work out how to fir the paper - it involved three screws (which previous renters had mangled terribly), a flat metal bar, and a large cylinder. After some faffing about we managed to mount the first roll. The plug was so old and battered that it kept falling out of the wall, so I had to employ some masking tape in large amounts to secure the connection.

On goes the machine.

It’s not as loud as the belt sander, surprisingly. I lower it to the wood and it makes an angry, snarling, ripping, shredding, end-of-the-world type of noise and spits the sanding sheet out onto the decking, in tiny bits.

We mount another sheet, using a different technique. I lower the revving machine and the same thing happens. We discuss the problem, she seems to think that it is due to nails, so I hammer all the nails soundly further into the wood, although they aren’t proud (so to speak). The next attempt is a little better and I manage to strip wood viciously for about ten seconds before the sheet rips to shreds. We decide that it is due to the uneven wood ends and to stick to the centre of the planks for now. The next sheet mounts tightly, having got the technique right, finally, and I manage to sand for about forty minutes without a problem.

It all went rather well in the end. I got better and better, and I had no more ripping sheets. My mother-in-law retired inside, obviously satisfied that I wasn’t going to destroy the machine.

Anyway, four hour later and most of the decking is smooth and lovely. The edges still need to be done with a belt sander, as do a few patches where the wood is uneven, but it’s a good job.

Anyway, we take the hulking sander back to the shop and wait for half an hour as burly overall-clad men ignore us until we finally get to pay. My mother-in-law mentions that we’ll be back to hire a belt-sander to finish the edges. What? Says the man, Didn’t you use the edge attachment?

What edge attachment?

Well, they are supposed to supply with the machine and add-on which allows you to sand edges next to walls and corners.

Sorry, he said.

The saga continues.



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Montreal Decking (1)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Decking

My mother-in-law decided that it would be nice to have her patio decking ‘done’, and what that means is that I’ll be doing it out of the goodness of my heart. Anyway, not content with a new layer of paint, she decides that it would be nicer stripped down to the bare wood and tinted, or stained. This plan was encouraged by my troublesome wife, who agreed that it would be lovely. Okay, not too traumatic so far. The decking is about 17 foot by 10 foot and raised off the ground by about a foot and a half. There is no access underneath, and no way of taking it apart in any way (just in case you are thinking about it). The first problem is that the planks of wood are all set apart by about half an inch, not flush together. So, bright blue paint is all down the sides of the planks, and highly visible.

Solution 1: The paint stripper.

Suggested by my father (who has extensive experience of stripping paint off various surfaces). He said, paint paint-stripper down the sides, then scrape it off with a blade. ‘Should be easy’, he says. It might be worth pointing out here that I was never concerned about the surface of the decking, as I always thought I’d just sand that off with an electric sander. Okay, so I buy a few litres of some super-decking-stripper-without-the-pain from the local hardware store that says it’ll strip a couple of football pitches, or some other equally blatant lie. Anyway, I follow the instructions and succeed, eventually, after hours of backbreaking scrubbing (which the product claimed I wouldn’t have to do), in revealing the yellow paint under the blue, and a few patches of wood. The sides of the planks stubbornly clung to their paint though, resisting all attempts to brush it off. Suffice to say that I ran out of product half way through and started swearing.

Solution 2: Improved strength paint stripper.

Not for the faint hearted this stuff. Guaranteed to contain chemicals that dissolve concrete, or your hands, on contact. This product claimed that I would merely have to hose down the decking after application and watch the paint wash away - absolutely painless, just ensure all pets are indoors type of thing. Anyway, it didn’t bloody work and I ended off scrubbing like hell for hours on end, and getting a similar effect to the first product.

Solution 3: Leave the whole thing half done for a number of weeks in the hope it will go away.

It didn’t.

Solution 4: I had a brainwave.

I cast my mind back to woodworking at school and remembered a tool that we used for just such purposes as removing layers of wood in awkward places - a ‘rasper’. I started to check out all the hardware stores in an effort to find one, but was always out of luck. I had no idea how to say ‘rasper’ in French and my attempts to explain always led to plain old files (which didn’t work, as I had tried this in a moment of desperation already). So, I forgot all about it for a week until I saw a rasper, accidentally whilst buying some carriage bolts somewhere. I rushed (well, maybe not) to the decking and spent three hours rasping away. It worked quite well, produced copious blisters, and quite a good result. The problem was that three hours of work only covered about one tenth of the planking sides. Another thirty hours of the same activity didn’t sound too good to me, and in fact made me break out in a cold sweat.

Solution 5: Ignore the sides and just do the top.

This is my mother-in-law’s idea actually, along with my wife. I think they suspect that the snows will arrive before I finish the sides, which would be bad news for the decking. So, I agree that I’ll just sand the top and tint it, then rasp sides and top up the tint, as and when I have time - perhaps over the next several years. I pointed out (and still do) that you’ll be able to see yellow and blue paint on the sides of the planking, but my mother-in-law claims that she can’t, which is nice of her.

The Sanding Machine

Now, my mother-in-law produces this bit of paper, cut out of the local newspaper, which reviews a new machine for stripping wood ‘without pain’. The actual title was something like ‘Stripping without pain’. I was sceptical. There was a picture of a man, smiling, actually smiling, as he stripped wood off a plank with the new and funky machine, which employed magic, or something equally dubious, to achieve its unbelievable result. Anyway, there was no putting her off, so we set off to the local ‘outils location’ (or whatever) shop, where we would rent tools from burly, condescending types in overalls.

Turns out that they didn’t have the new super-magic-without-pain machine, and the chief (or chef) of the shop actually sneered when shown the article. He said he’d tried one at a trade fair, and that a belt sander was quicker. I’m still confused as to what this magical machine does that a normal sander doesn’t, perhaps throwing a flame or something. At this point I should mention that we did talk about heating guns and scraping tools, but I dismissed it as being longer, or equal in length to the rasper.

Anyway, we took a belt sander. He eyed me and said, ‘Do you know how to use it?’ I had to bite my tongue, as it was about to say, ‘of course’, and instead moderate my reply and say, ‘I haven’t used one of these before.’ Emphasising ‘these’ so he was aware that I’d actually used a sander before in my life.

With a flick of the wrist and slight-of-hand, he mounted a belt in place and locked it down tight, without me seeing.

‘Like this’, he said.

‘Okay’, I lied, ‘no problem.’

He went on, ‘When you start it, the belt will go this way, turn this knob until it comes back this way, then when you start to sand it will go this way, turn the knob to make it go this way. Keep it in the centre.’

‘Right.’ I said. How difficult could it be?

Half an hour later and I’m sanding the decking. When I started the machine, I twiddled the knob and corrected the wobble, then twiddled it again when sanding, and it was all going terribly well. I did a plank, then another, then another. Great. My knees started to hurt, I stood and did another, my back started to hurt. I began to suffer, and did another and another. So after about 4 foot square I was dead and couldn’t hear anything. My mother-in-law insisted on going out to buy me earplugs.

The sanding started to get harder and harder and I realised that the belt was wearing down, so I unplugged it and pulled up the release lever, which relaxed the two wheels that the belt sat on. The belt slipped off okay, and the new one slipped on fine. I pushed the lever back and was quite pleased. Poised to start again I was dismayed when the wheels whizzed round and the belt stayed stationary, flapping a little. I unplugged and examined the mechanism. The belt was too big for the wheels. Damn. I took the old belt and put it on and that was too big too. Okay, the belt was the right size and I was stupid, perhaps. It took me a good ten minutes to realise that turning the mysterious knob that controlled the tilt of the belt also lengthened the distance between the wheels, stretching the belt (curiously, it did this whatever direction you turned it in). The knob was a mystery to me. Anyway, the belt was on.

When started, it shot off the side, like an elastic band. I re-applied it and furiously turned the knob to make it slide in the other direction, and it did, and stayed there, refusing to return to the middle. I stopped the machine, unplugged it again and reloaded the belt. Turned it on and it shot to the side and refused to move. I turned the knob one way about ten turns, nothing, the other way about ten turns, nothing. Well, the band was turning, what did it matter if it was skewed to one side, I reasoned?

I sanded for perhaps ten minutes when I noticed the hole appearing in the top of the metal sheet covering the band. I watched in fascination as it opened up and started to gape wider. I stopped the machine, unplugged it and examined the mechanism. The belt had eaten through the metal all along the side, and also some plastic. My heart sank. Was that really me? Could the sander really eat itself like that? What the hell would the burly, condescending overall-wearing guy say when we took it back? ‘What the HELL have you done to my sander!?’

I showed my mother-in-law and explained that there might be serious consequences upon return of the rented item. She shrugged and asked if I could continue with the decking?

So, I sit down for a serious study of the appliance. I take off the belt and notice that the front wheel is sitting at an odd angle, explaining the reluctance of the belt to move to the centre. I lock the mechanism and it straightens a little, but not a lot. I twiddle the knob. Nothing happens. There are no more controls apart from on and off. I examine the knob, it seemed to be connected to a little rod that hovered meaninglessly in the air. Twiddling it simply seemed to rotate it. On a whim I kept turning it in one direction for a long time and watched it descend slowly until it hit the wheel and then pressed against it, changing its angle. I swore and cursed my stupidity once again. I had obviously unscrewed the knob too far in one attempt at control, and since then it had no effect whatsoever.

Control re-established, I sanded for five hours in the day, getting between a third and a half done. Tired and groggy, I was going to finish at 4:40pm, but decided to push on until 5pm, making a round number. As if in a dream, with heavy hands and aching back I started to sand the last fateful plank of the day. Half way along I heard an odd buzzing noise and stopped to have a look what it was - an unlucky wasp maybe? No, of course not. It was the power cable of the sander. As if I hadn’t inflicted enough damage on the poor machine, I had also now sanded off the outer casing of the power cable. Revealing, rather dangerously, the inner wires.

I packed up an had a shower, warning my mother-in-law that they might be unhappy with the sander when she takes it back. She seemed unconcerned. Perhaps with a few hundred dollars worth of bill, she will become more so.

Sawdust

So, there’s sawdust everywhere. It’s in my hair, under my nails, in the fabric of my clothes, in my nose, my ears, between my toes, and generally settled in my lungs. Not the nice kind of sawdust that you plunge your hand into to grab a prize at a lucky-dip, oh no, the finer kind, the dust and airborne kind. Yes, after another day with unlikely sanding machines.

When I next met my mother-in-law she informed me that we were going to hire equipment form another vendor. This struck me as suspicious - had the last people said something about the sander and she had just not mentioned it? As it turned out, she had decided to change machines as she didn’t want to see me bending over for another five hours with a belt sander, so she had another thing in mind, something she had seen used by workmen in the past - the ‘upright sander’.

Imagine a vacuum cleaner, but more severe.

So, another burly, overall-clad, condescending man later, we hauled an extraordinarily large and heavy sander-cum-vacuum-cleaner into the boot of the car. It was very, very heavy. As is (now) usual, the man had shown me how to load the sanding paper onto a large roller in a casual, non-informative way and curtly dismissed us.

True to form, we couldn’t work out how to fit the paper - it involved three screws (which previous renters had mangled terribly), a flat metal bar, and a large cylinder. After some faffing about we managed to mount the first roll. The plug was so old and battered that it kept falling out of the wall, so I had to employ some masking tape in large amounts to secure the connection.

On goes the machine.

It’s not as loud as the belt sander, surprisingly. I lower it to the wood and it makes an angry, snarling, ripping, shredding, end-of-the-world type of noise and spits the sanding sheet out onto the decking, in tiny bits.

We mount another sheet, using a different technique. I lower the revving machine and the same thing happens. We discuss the problem, she seems to think that it is due to nails, so I hammer all the nails soundly further into the wood, although they aren’t proud (so to speak). The next attempt is a little better and I manage to strip wood viciously for about ten seconds before the sheet rips to shreds. We decide that it is due to the uneven wood ends and to stick to the centre of the planks for now. The next sheet mounts tightly, having got the technique right, finally, and I manage to sand for about forty minutes without a problem.

It all went rather well in the end. I got better and better, and I had no more ripping sheets. My mother-in-law retired inside, obviously satisfied that I wasn’t going to destroy the machine.

Anyway, four hours later and most of the decking is smooth and lovely. The edges still need to be done with a belt sander, as do a few patches where the wood is uneven, but it’s a good job.

Anyway, we take the hulking sander back to the shop and wait for half an hour as burly overall-clad men ignore us until we finally get to pay. My mother-in-law mentions that we’ll be back to hire a belt-sander to finish the edges. What? Says the man, Didn’t you use the edge attachment?

What edge attachment?

Well, they are supposed to supply with the machine an add-on which allows you to sand edges next to walls and corners.

‘Sorry’, he said.

The saga continues.



Blog

Decking Day

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Today was a decking day. A day where I wrestled with wood that really means me no harm, but is causing me some anyway. I'm stripping down the decking and planning to stain the lovely natural wood a nice colour and leave it like that. Presently it is a nasty blue colour, who knows what the previous tenants were thinking?

Anyway, I went to my local hardware store and was assured by a too-young-to-know man that this large plastic container of acidic stuff would strip off all my nasty latex paint in no time. The instructions seem to go along with this, reading, 'Leave to soak for 15 minutes and then rub gently with a brush, the paint will come off.' Hmm.

Well, surprise, surprise, the paint doesn't come off. Some of it does, after heartbreaking rubbing, scraping and hosing (for hours), and reveals the coat of nasty yellow paint under the blue. The reasoning behind painting the thing blue becomes clearer now.

So, I would just use a large sander to buzz the whole thing clean and nice, and I will do that, but the planking is about half an inch apart all the way across, so there is paint in the gaps which would look terrible if I didn't remove it. This is why I bought the paint stripper, I thought it would help (my father suggested that it would).

Now, one eighth of the decking is semi-stripped and displays blue, orange and wood. The sides, the inaccessible sides, display the same levels of paint.

Oh, strength, do not desert me.



Blog

Risk

Monday, November 01, 2004

Cause

Risk per 1 Million people

% Chance of death in a year

1 in every how many per year deaths

Smoking 10 cigarettes a day

5000

0.5

200

Heart disease

3400

0.34

294

Cancer

1600

0.16

625

Car accidents

225

0.0225

4,444

Flu

200

0.02

5,000

Work accidents

150

0.015

6,667

Home accidents

110

0.011

9,091

Murders

93

0.0093

10,753

Leukemia

80

0.008

12,500

Nasty Falls

68

0.0068

14,706

Car vs. pedestrian collisions

42

0.0042

23,810

Drowning

36.5

0.00365

27,397

Fires and burns

29

0.0029

34,483

Lung cancer from passive smoking

20

0.002

50,000

Inhalation and ingestion of objects

15

0.0015

66,667

Poisoning by solids and liquids

11.5

0.00115

86,957

Guns, sporting

10.5

0.00105

95,238

Railroads

9

0.0009

111,111

Eating beef on the bone

8.3

0.00083

120,482

Civil aviation

8

0.0008

125,000

Poisoning by gases

7.35

0.000735

136,054

Pleasure boating

6

0.0006

166,667

Electrocution

5.3

0.00053

188,679

Tornadoes

0.6

0.00006

1,666,667

Floods

0.6

0.00006

1,666,667

Lightning strike

0.5

0.00005

2,000,000

Venomous animals and insects

0.2

0.00002

5,000,000

Aircraft falls from sky

0.1

0.00001

10,000,000

Nuclear power plant leak

0.1

0.00001

10,000,000

Pressure vehicle explodes

0.05

0.000005

20,000,000

Meteorite hit

0.00001

1.0E-09

100,000,000,000