Aug 21

My second plumbing project of the year

I got my socks wet this morning. There’s not much worse than that, but one thing worse than wet socks is not knowing the provenance of the water now in your socks.

I assumed it was a shower dripping scenario. Safe bet, considering where my socks got wet. Sometimes you’re too enthusiastic to meet the day and water winds up not in the towel, but on the tile floor. That was not the case, because that would be an easy fix and not really worth discussing here after the obvious notation of the unpleasant nature of wet socks.

No, it was more than that. We have a plumbing problem. (For the first one of the year, a simple and yet long-running kitchen odyssey that I finally whipped in April, go here.) Precisely the sort of thing you want to discover just in time to leave for the office.

It seems that the seal at the base of the toilet has failed. So turn off the water supply, empty the basin, dry the floor and deal with it later. Also, this is a good time to replace the lid, which earlier this week started giving signs of failing as well.

It’s not an old house, but it’s nice when things go in concert, I guess.

I immediately envisioned this as a two-evening process, because who has the energy to correct all of this in one brief evening after a day of work and a trip to a hardware store and so on.

The day at work was pleasant, until late in the afternoon when I remembered this new chore I had awaiting me at the house. I visited the local small hardware store, between campus and domicile, for something called penetrating oil. I’d noticed that the bolts holding the lid in place were fused solid and something must be done about that.

This is peculiar hardware. It’s designed to be unobtrusive and installed once. No thought of that design is given to removal. That’s only going to happen once, after all. It seats almost flush, so the head isn’t large enough to offer real purchase. There is no drive, where your screwdriver tip goes, to control a counter-spin. (I just looked up that term, drive. I’ll use it incessantly now.) So it won’t be a painless removal. It won’t be pretty. Most importantly, it won’t be done by the person that installed them.

The directions on the penetration oil, by the way …

You can see why I bought this brand.

I did all of that, and in the “wait a while” portion I decided to re-fill the tank — something my lovely bride said made me hope that it was actually an easier problem to solve — to test our theory about the wax seal. Turns out the leak is from the underside of the tank. There are three contact points on the tank, one where the water moves and two bolt holes on either side. The water is coming from one of those bolt holes, I think. So I remove the tank cover. Inside, the non-suspect bolt on the left looks a bit worse for wear, some sharp rusted points, but fine. The one on the right, is my likely culprit. I reached into the tank to touch it and it exploded. I wish I had a camera on it. It looked like this:

That’s a hardware failure. Good news, maybe it’s not the wax seal. Bad news, now I have all of this to clean up the mess and fix the problem.

So I dried and cleaned and removed the tank from the base and wondered exactly how the head of a brass bolt simply disintegrates on contact. What’s in the water that can do that? And, in light of that, should I be considered about our many other standard water uses?

To the seat, then, with it’s peculiar one-use hardware that was, it turns out, totally unfazed by the penetrating oil. Ultimately we wound up snapping the hinge points and working a hacksaw through the bolts. (When you’re working a hacksaw through rust and steel it is important to remain patient, especially if you’re doing this in close proximity to porcelain you don’t want to mar.)

After that I went to the second hardware store of the day. The mission: a new seat and lid, and some new hardware to replace the bolts and washers that had failed in the tank.

Saw that bit of the sunset on the way there. Had a very kind young man help me find the parts I needed, and then returned to finish this job. Because, by now, I did not want this to be a two-evening experience. Get all of your wedged-in-a-tight-space-working-at-awkward-angles humility in one afternoon, I always say.

Bolt the tank to the base. Return the water supply, notice the leaks, turn off the water supply. Dry the wet floor again, tighten the bolts to create a proper seal. (Do not over-tighten around ceramic.) And then install the new seat and lid.

None of this takes any real time if you are working with good materials. We’re talking about four bolts and nuts here. But if home repair was easy, anyone could do it, right? After all of the this, and cleaning up and returning the tools to their proper home and so on, it was about about a five-hour project.

But I saw that sunset.

And I purchased replacement hacksaw blades. And, finally, I bought some standard wrenches. I’ve always gotten by with a metric set and crescent wrenches but this evening, wedged between a wall and the plumbing fixtures I finally just thought, ‘You know what? Buy a set with a 7/16 in it like everyone else does and get on with your chores.”

And, tonight, I will rest happily in the knowledge that there are no more leaks. And that the next time that lid gets replaced, maybe it won’t be by me.

Aug 21

Shoo, fly

My lovely bride — who is as strong as they come and smarter than she realizes — and I have a joke in our house. Whenever there is an insect she asks me to handle the situation.

We all have things we don’t want to do, so this is fine. I say, make sure people you spend your time with have complimentary tastes and services. Not everyone should be scared of, say, clowns, to the point of immobility. Someone present should be able to handle the situation.

But that’s not really what this is. She lets me address the insect and that lets me let the critter outside, or meet it’s untimely fate, and then we make a joke about how I saved her life. From the millipede, or whatever we are dealing with.

Well, today was no millipede. And after I’d returned from a long and fruitful day at the office we were chatting as people do and in the middle of the conversation she says, “Oh, I need a very thin piece of cardboard.” I produce something from the recycling stack in the garage and ask her why. “I trapped the world’s largest house fly under a plastic bowl and you need to slide the cardboard under it to carry it outside.”

OK, not a problem. Paperboard, bowl, we’ve all been there. The flooring that the insect was on was dark, so I couldn’t see it properly until I got outside to notice we had trapped and were releasing a female Tabanus atratus.

Look at that scissoring mouth! And why are we finding horseflies indoors?

She flew off to do horsefly things. We sat outside, for some reason, and I was thinking about how they use their six piercing mouth parts and — this part is unnecessarily gross, apologies — the sponge-like labrum used to lap up blood.

Horseflies don’t often bite people. But you don’t want to be bitten by a horsefly.

Back to my evening reading selection. I’m about to wrap this up.

It’s been a fine read. Again, it’s like an in-depth Wikipedia entry on a given subject from the period. Most of the chapters are about 20-something pages. It’s a great overview. And I have found things in Lord’s book that will prompt me to look for more thorough accounts, but other subjects I’ve read the 20 or 30 pages and felt like I had enough for now.

What was fun this evening was reading a bit about this particular moment in the American culture … through the lens of a 1960s writer.

Riding bikes! Swimming! Smoking! Pants! You knew how that had evolved, but it’s a treat to see little anecdotes like that which help to spell out how it could be liberating and befuddling. It all really stands out, 110 years-and-more later, of course, but just imagine being in the moment. Or consider that the next time something is different compared to the things to which you’ve long been accustomed. Makes you wonder what the social mores will be like in another five generations.

Aug 21

Set a record for interpersonal interactions this weekend

Saturday we had a video chat with some friends. Two of them were supposed to be getting on a cruise ship for their anniversary, a trip they’d postponed last year, but there was a small snag in their plans. Now they will cruise next week. And that’s just the way of the world now, right? You didn’t get precisely what you wanted when you wanted, but there might be the opportunity to do it literally next week, with a bit less hassle than you’d imagine for that sort of thing, pre-Covid.

This is a part of the business model that I endorse. Maybe this level of customer service and good faith acting is something that consumers will see fit to reward when it comes to the bottom line. It’d be nice if that was a certain kindness that sticks around long after all of this is gone, if all of this ever goes away.

Remember, we used to live in a world where doctors or hair dressers would fire you if you had to cancel too many appointments. That airlines and cruise lines and whomever else are now acknowledging that stuff happens is a good thing. We can assign fault later, assigning fault is easy. Get me on the next trip to enjoy your goods and services and we can each call this a pleasant transaction.

Sunday evening we had a visit with some work friends. It didn’t go quite as we’d planned, but we’ve only been trying to do this since the pandemic began or so, so you roll with it and hope for the best.

So there we were, an advertiser, a comm scholar, a political scientist and us, all trying to be smart and funny at the same time. All thoroughly likable people, all full of giggles. It was a nice visit and we somehow managed to do it just before classes start next week and everything turns upside.

Turning upside down being a question of going from summer mode to the fall plan, and not a cynical Covid distinction. Who knows what that will bear out. Play it smart, hope for the best and thank goodness for the science that brought us masks and vaccines.

Incidentally, that three-point plan is a big part of my fall plan.

Anyway, this was the most people I’ve seen in a two-day span since the spring — and half of these folks were virtual! — we still take our precautions to heart.

But I know you’re really here for the weekly check on the cats. They are doing just fine. Phoebe is enjoying her mornings in the hall, where the sun lights things up nicely for her.

She enjoys being playing coy behind the spindles of the railing.

She also wants you to rub her belly through the spindles. If you’re nearby, that’s what you should be doing.

Poseidon spent the morning in the closet. It’s nice and warm there, too, and it’s a door we try to keep closed, so naturally he has to be in there at every opportunity, working on his Superman pose.

I don’t think we were supposed to see his Superman pose.

Now we’ve embarrassed him. Awkward photos are his kryptonite.

Finally! I’ve found a way to keep that cat in check!

And you? How was your weekend? How are your pets and friends and family?

Aug 21

No splinters here

My lovely bride asked me to make her a computer stand. We settled on a less-is-so-much-more design. So awhile back I trimmed a nice piece of scrap board to the desired dimensions, sanded it to down to 400 grit and, this weekend, she started staining it. Monday I showed you her patent pending dot-dot-stain technique. We put a few coats on Sunday and Monday. Yesterday she attached the legs and put the thing into practice. This is what it looks like this morning.

To personalize the project, I stamped a little love note into part of the board. And now everything is the right height for when she wants to stand up to use that machine in her home office.

I tried standing up in my office office. It just seems silly and boring.

Today, I do my best writing and reading and emailing while sitting. Now, back in my broadcasting days, I did my best work will standing. Maybe I should have a movable desk in a studio set-up.

Or a split level desk! With risers! And wings!

You can see how this could get out of control. (My first desk did.)

I’ve got a list of other projects to attend to and finish, before even drawing up plans on another one. Miles to go before I sleep, and so much sanding to be done, as they say.

Elsewhere, today was quiet. Spreadsheets and email and heat indices well over 100 degrees. The heat is supposed to break tomorrow or Friday. Or maybe by the weekend. Until then, hydrate much, sweat as little as possible.

Aug 21

So we let another Monday sneak up on us

I’m not sure why we let this happen. Again. By now, you’d think, someone would have noticed a pattern. Perhaps they could have gone down to the Office of Naming Things and said something. You probably get brushed off there. They’d send you to the Department of Reorganizing Units of Time. Now, if we know one thing, the humorless people in that office are no help. They’ll let you know straightaway. There’s a sign there that says it takes five business posplexes to get a response back on the paperwork.

The solution then, is obviously to get back to the time machine project. I’m planning on building the next test version in the body of a front-loading clothes dryer.

Unless future me comes back right now to tell me that’s the wrong approach.

No future me. So the dryer version it is. I should make some nice progress on it over the next few posplexes.

How was your weekend? Lovely and restful and productive in all of the proper proportions, I’m sure. I had a nice little run on Saturday morning. It was nice until my entire body rebelled. And that’s what you get when you try to run more than a 5K on no fuel. My blood sugar was a bit low, so I walked the last mile. That let me discover some of the largest milkweed plants you’ll ever see.

I wonder if anyone ever just decided to go for it and crack one of those seed pods open, to see what was inside: no tools, no rocks nearby, just hands and derring-do. I’d bet they were sorely disappointed. And their hands were sore.

We picked up the traditional Chick-fil-A lunch, parking right by the front door for the curbside pickup, watching people walking in right by this sign, maskless.

This county went back under a mask mandate last week. I understand, and am sympathetic, to some elements of the current vaccine debate. Because of that, I’m of two minds about the anger. But masks, this is a different category altogether. Masks are effective; they’re no infringement on your rights. You can breathe in them, and we all should know by now that our noses are connected to the respiratory system.

At which point we’re talking about people who, for some reason, want to conflate self-interest and public health. Like there’s a difference.

Went for a nice 25-mile bike this weekend, too. I only just realized that I didn’t take any pictures or videos. Just imagine me falling well behind on a short ride and going much slower than I should.

That was yesterday afternoon. And last night we stained a bit of wood. This is second or third coat, but you can still see The Yankee’s patented dot-dot-stain system.

I’m not sure where that came from, but that’s how she does it. She enjoys staining — now if I can just show her how much fun sanding is! — and has done a lot of the little projects we’ve built around here. I’ll show you what this is later this week.

Because, right now, we must get to the regular Monday check-in on the cats. They’re doing great, as you can tell. Phoebe is enjoying a bit of late evening sun here:

And here she is sleeping. This must be comfortable. She often finds herself wrapped around the arm of the sofa as a part of our evening cuddle.

Upside down is the way to see life, apparently. Poseidon thinks so, anyway.

So rare that the two of them agree on something, it’s worth noting as a universal truth.

And, finally, here’s Poseidon’s latest portrait.

And that’ll do for now. See you tomorrow. It’s only a posplex away!

Did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? Phoebe and Poe have an Instagram account. And keep up with me on Twitter. Don’t forget my Instagram. There are also some very interesting On Topic with IU podcasts for you, as well.