Home “Improvement” Micro-update

Remember my recent follies with garden hose repair? Which resulted in this?

Rube Goldberg and Heath Robinson are appalled….

…which failed within seconds of trying it? Good times.

So I did eventually run down to Ace and pick up hose repair items. There was another hose to repair that I didn’t show the first time around, where I assessed the problem, got the right size/wrong direction (needed the female, got the male), BUT! after that small diversion & an exchange, patched it up in 2 minutes, back in use, no problem since. So, I can, in fact, do this, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

No, really.

So: the abomination up above had no such easy solution. Ace didn’t carry the exact kit I needed – this funky spiral hose is smaller than the standard sizes, so I had to get one just a *tiny* bit too large. This meant I couldn’t get the hose to slide cleanly on, so had to try a number of things…

Eventually, maybe 3rd? fourth? try, I used a lighter to heat up the hose, softening and expanding it, and was thus able to wrestle it onto the little nub, and, well:

There you go. What I should have done the first time. Except for that whole “is this cheap old hose even worth repairing?” question, with the implied “it will only break somewhere else if I fix it here” niggling concern….

It seems like it was only yesterday – because it was only yesterday – that I got the initial problem solved satisfactorily, after giving the tangled hose a pull and popping the hose off the repair shown above. Heated it more, wrestled it farther on, clamped it down good, looked/worked good.

Watering the plant on and around the patio this morning, the hose started leaking audibly from the connection to the faucet. In keeping with this comedy of errors, the picture I took of the problem also failed somehow – a first for this phone camera.

Sooooo – I’d need probably a little tiny pipe clamp to fix this. Or I could, you know, get another hose.

But that would be too easy….

Monday Mish-Mash

A. This scrap of flash fiction seems somehow relevant.

Minchinhampton Common: where the cow is king but only just ...

B. At first glance, I thought Amazon was trying to sell me bulk shotgun shells:

“Your go-to Solution” seemed a little dark for corporate America.

C. Is that, is that – Caleb Jones?

D. On a less light note: the recent Supreme Court ruling giving those confused about their sex cover as a protected class is, ultimately, the final puzzle piece in the 200+ year effort to bring all schools completely under the control of the state. As usual, the stated goals are a smokescreen: the champions of this ruling were talking fairness, discrimination, and mean old bigots, not ‘we can now sue private schools out of existence and lock up homeschoolers and take away their kids.’ But that is what this is about.

More detailed post when I can stomach it.

Home ‘Improvement’ Update: Hosed

When we last checked in, like, yesterday, I had tried to MacGyver (for values of ‘MacGyver’ where he’s suffered debilitating brain aneurysms) a leaky hose. For reasons lost to the mists of History – yes, capital ‘H’ – (and shall remain so enmisted). I deployed a plastic sleeve, about a gallon of Shoe Goo, a few feet of nylon cord, thus:

After allowing the Shoe Goo to cure overnight, I applied some electrical tapea. A LOT of electrical tape:

I’m sure you all are dying to hear how it worked.

Time to failure: about 10 seconds. Slow drip. Then, over the next few minutes as I watered the patio plants, we reached this appalling state:

That would be a fail. A big fat dramatic fail mocking my insane yet evidently pathetic repair efforts. Geysers and puddles level fail. When I start getting cocky, y’all can remind me of this.

It isn’t stupid if it works. This is stupid. I sense a trip to Ace in my immediate future.

Rube Goldberg & Home ‘Improvement’

And now for something completely different….

From my farm boy entrepreneur father, I inherited the can-do attitude of simply thinking an awful lot of problems can be solved if you just go at it. In general, this has served me well. For example, I am generally willing to pay people to work on our cars or plumbing – I can do, sure, but lacking the expertise (and all those nice tools!) it’s better to have the pros do it. *How* I came to realize this involves, not some abstract considerations, but rather, flooding a bathroom and lying on my back outside on the asphalt in the dead of winter under a VW bug pulling on an accelerator cable. Among other equally, um, memorable, experiences. So, unless it’s pretty straight-forward, I’ll call the plumber or electrician (don’t ask) and take my cars in for service.

Plus I’m cheap. I don’t like throwing broken things out, and do like jury-rigging solutions out of stuff lying around. This leads to thing like the compost box that took several *days* to build out of an old oak futon frame, leftover wainscoting boards, and wire mesh scraps, among other things. On the plus side, works OK and it’s still there 3 years later; on the down side, I’m never getting that time back and could have made something at least as functional out of a couple sheets of plywood and some 2 x 4s in about 2 hours – which I will need to do in the near future anyway, as the needlessly complicated present one is falling predictably apart. .

So, got up early today, and was watering plants on the patio. The hose for the patio is one of those spiral stretchy ones that’s quite a few years old. A while back, it sprung a leak near the middle.

Do I say: old cheap hose, we’ve got our money’s worth, toss it, as the first leak is generally a sign of more leaks to come? Or: I’ll see if they have the appropriate hose patch kit at Ace?

OR: do I grab some electrical tape and have at it?

So the tape held for a short while, then started leaking, then spraying. Next, I tried slathering on some Shoe Goo and covering with duct tape. That was – not good. So, this morning, I decide to give it one more go. Because I’m kinda stupid that way.

I’m thinking the Shoe Goo wasn’t a bad idea, I just needed more and a longer cure time. And that the rapid failure of the duct tape effort might have something to do with goopy, lumpy terrain due to the previous attempts…

So, I cut out the bad section entirely, find a plastic sleeve thing that fits over the hose, slather on the Shoe Goo in a manner intended to cause the sleeve to spread it out when I shove it over the ends. And I stick it together…

Then I start worrying that there’s not enough strength along the length of the hose, that this patch will pull out when I drag the hose around. Soooo – looking around for something handy, I spy some nylon cord. Hmmm. Cut a few lengths longer than the patch job, and Shoe Goo them on. That doesn’t look right…

So I wrap the length of the repair in the cord, and Shoe Goo *that* on. Then decide that, after it dries, I’ll wrap the whole thing in electical tsape, extending a good 6″ on either side of the repair…

Did I mention that, while fiddling around with all this, I pulled the hose out of the sleeve at least 3 times, and, ramming back in means I’m also putting Shoe Goo on the *inside* of the hose, where it will not help and may very well clog the hose.

So, instead of throwing an old hose away, instead of looking for a repair kit next time I’m at Ace, I wasted spent a half hour doing this:

I wish I were confident that this is the most ridiculous repair job I’ve ever attempted, but I can’t actually be sure. Which is a little scary…

And then I’m going to waste a hundred feet of electrical tape to cover this monstrosity up. Any bets on how fast it springs a leak somewhere else, in the unlikely event this doesn’t just fail out of the chute or that I ended up clogging it up with Shoe Goo, or both?

Sheesh.

Big Fish

“A Submarine.”

“And a motorcycle. Indian, by the looks of it.”

Edgar nodded, then returned his gaze to his heavily bandaged hand. His scrambled eggs, slathered with half a bottle of hot sauce, were half finished.

“Barge operator saw it, too. Tried to avoid it.” Bill shook his head, and stared into his coffee cup.

“Shame about the old bridge.”

“So the barge operator ran into the old Vicksburg Bridge because he was trying to avoid a submarine? In the Mississippi?” My orange juice sat untouched.

“And a motorcycle.”

“Stars and bars on the sub,” Bill added, “12-pound Napoleon mounted on the nose, look like.”

“Like that one they used to have down in the park in Success?”

“Yep.”

Bill and Edgar fell silent. “So, this submarine, surfacing in the Mississippi near the old Vicksburg Bridge, had a Confederate battle flag and a Civil War era artillery piece mounted on it?”

“Snagged the Indian.”

“Nice bike, just wedged there under the barrel.”

I soldiered on. “And the barge operator lost control and rammed the bridge piling trying to avoid it?”

“That, and the catfish.”

Bill rolled his eyes. “Nobody saw that but you, Ed.”

Ed glared and raised his bandaged hand. “This look like imagination to you?”

“Probably cut it on that old water heater.”

I must have looked confused. I certainly was. Bill explained.

“We was noodling in the shallows.”

“Had ahold of a big old flathead, musta been 100 pounds at least.”

Bill looked unconvinced. “We’d dropped an old water heater down there last year, ’cause the big catfish’ll take up residence in ’em sometimes.” He looked away from Edgar. “Not every time.”

“Had my arm up to my shoulder down that old boy’s throat, grabbing at his gills, came up for air, dragging ‘im out, right when the submarine surfaced. ”

“I must’ve missed it.”

“You was looking at the sub!” Edgar looked hurt. “But the bargeman saw it!”

“Right. He’s looking right past a Confederate sub at some catfish. Sub’s old hat. Don’t see catfish everyday.”

“Confederate sub?” I was trying to piece this together.

“Beauregard Forrest Jones. Of an old family hereabouts.”

“Always a bit crazy, the Jones.” Edgar shook his head.

“1861. Jones gets a look at Hundley’s American Diver.”

“Old Jones was not about to let some dandy from N’Orleans show him up.”

“Has to one up him.” Edgar shoveled some eggs. “Confederacy had a $50,ooo reward for a working submarine.”

“Greybacks. Worth about a buck fifty.”

Edgar and Bill chuckled.

“Then Hundley drowned and the war ended on him.” Bill sipped his coffee.

“Union woulda taken it, if they’d a known it was there.”

On display beside Bayou St. John, 1890s

“Jones was a proud man.”

“And crazy.” Edgar finished his eggs, pulled a handkerchief from his pocked, and wiped his face.

“We’ve established that.” Bill put down his empty cup, and waved off a thin, older woman in a plaid apron who was coming to refill it. “No thanks, Velma, honey.”

“So the story goes Jones hid the thing in some backwater around here.”

“Took it out at night, once in a while, when the old rebels would get together to reminisce.”

“Would fire off that cannon.”

“Yep. The South did occasionally rise again, if only from two fathoms down.”

They laughed again.

I tried to process this information. “So a crazy old man had a home-built submarine from the Civil War hidden in the Mississippi, that he took out at night for old time sake – and nobody noticed?”

“That’s what I heard.” Velma cleared the formica table. I put a hand over my still-untouched orange juice.

“Left it to his son, who left it to his, and so on down the line.” Bill mopped his brow. The day was growing hot, humid, and still.

“Asked ol’ Caleb Jones about it, one time, he weren’t sayin’ nothin’.”

“Last time anybody owned up to seeing it was maybe, what, ’87?”

“Until last week.”

“The barge pilot will confirm this?” I asked.

“Hank? Hell, no.” Bill asserted. “It’s his barge, he’ll want to pretend nothing happened rather than own up to running into a bridge like the damn fool he is.”

“Maybe he’d confirm that catfish,” Edgar mused. “A big ‘un. Huge.”

“Right. That somehow disappeared just as I turned around.”

“Couldn’t hold ’em! I got distracted by the submarine!”

Opening Crawl

It is a time of crisis.

Bad things have happened.

We messed up. Greed, stupidity, the usual.

It is about to get worse.

Only a few of us remain, huddled and desperate.

They are out to get us.

One man has been thrust into a situation not of his choosing.

Only he can stop them.

But he needs to get this thing.

With this thing he can stop them.

This thing is in a place hard to get to.

This is a story of a guy getting this thing that is hard to get to save us from them.

(cue: gunfire and explosions.)

(Been watching more YouTube sci fi shorts. Think I’ve seen them all now. )

Home Improvement Update: BRIX!

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since the last update on the Eternal Infernal Brick Project of Doom. My, time flies.

When we last checked in, the steps into the front yard mini orchard were in this state:

Finished up the steps proper:

From the porch.
From the orchard.

Came out well. The hole on the right and the bare concrete on the left will be the sites of two little brick towers upon which will be mounted a gate.

Meanwhile, out against the street, we left the brick planter/wrought iron style fence, southern section, in this state:

We’ve reached this critical juncture:

Looking south.
Looking north.

So, now I get to hammer-drill a few holes into the concrete, epoxy in some rebar off of which will hang some hardware from which the wrought iron style fence will be supported on either end, build the little brick towers, fill them with concrete, install the fence, add capping bricks to the front double-brick wall (can’t do it until the fence is fitted, as some of the bricks will need cutting or notches for the iron fence uprights to pass through). Similar process for the porch, for the gate hardware.

Then fill the planter in the front and puts some, I dunno, plants in it. THEN build the southern border wall – I hear such things are all the rage – which is similar planter concept, but without an iron fence, thinking more wooden lattice.

Got a month and a half of summer. Will he make it? Stay tuned!

Also, I mentioned earlier that my avocado tree project had failed, and, rather than let prime garden spots lie fallow, I threw in a some tomatoes and peppers – and 4 pumpkins. Which is between 2 and 4 pumpkins too many.

Prime spot. Hot, sunny days. Plenty of water. These suckers are going to take over the yard, the house, and it not stopped somehow, THE WORLD. OK, maybe not, but they are growing like crazy. On the plus side, as they crawl out of the bed and onto the surrounding ground, I’m motivated to clean up and weed, to make room. Two sugar pumpkins for eating, two of some giant variety for fun. Here’s the current status on the Great Pumpkin Conquest of Concord:

They’re only maybe 8 weeks along. I think with a little patience you could see them grow. The giant variety is in the foreground, and will be trained into an open area to the left; the sugar pumpkins are in the back, and will be trained off to the sides. That’s the plan, anyway.

Vermin have discovered my garden and orchard. We have a fair array of furry little bastards – pardon my Urdu – from moles, mice, rats and gophers through possums, racoons and potentially deer (seen plenty a few blocks from here, never seen any this far up our street. The threat is there, however). Damage so far suggests squirrels or rats. In a just world, it would be perfectly acceptable for me to spend a few nights out front with a pellet gun, nail some of whatever they are, and leave their carcasses to rot upon little pike-equivalents as a warning to their vermin kin.

But I think that’s frowned upon.

I do have some commercial-level vermin poison, stuff farmers use, which I of course never use anywhere anything other than vermin can get it, which kind of rules out the front yard. Sigh. So – we’ll see. Will check out various traps. Don’t know what the local policy, if any, is regarding offing squirrels – there are certainly plenty around here, many of whom die trying to outsmart cars. A few garden-fattened vermin would not be missed…

How about a raptor eyre? Probably not viable short term. Seen all sorts of hawks and owls around these parts…

Stay tuned for more exciting old-guy home improvement news!

Prolegomenon to Any Future Old-School SF&F Adventure

An honest and fair reader is due an account of how the following manuscript came into my possession, so that he might properly judge the frankly fantastical story to be discovered therein, the veracity of which I, myself, am now reluctantly convinced despite my initial incredulity.

Having heard through the popular press of the now-infamous Horatio G. Bloomincracker, doctor of botany and prodigious collector of curious tribal artifacts, of his sudden disappearance 15 years ago and his unexpected re-emergence from the darkest India jungles, of the curious artifacts found in his possession and his simultaneous appointment to a chair at Oxford and a cell at Bedlam, and the subsequent and possibly related reduction of much of the Midlands to a smoldering crater, it was with some not mild trepidation that I received an invitation to meet the great man.

Image result for victorian gentleman cartoon

I am of some reputation as a botanist myself, as the reader is no doubt aware. Having traveled the world in an ongoing if so far futile attempt to obtain specimens of the legendary Walking tree of Dahomey, I am more acquainted than most scholars with the various lands and peoples of this fair globe. Thus, there is a logic to Dr. Bloomincracker’s decision to unburden himself to me. Such is my fate: to share his burden, and to make known his travails, as a cautionary tale to all of humanity.

Bedlam was chosen for the fateful meeting, as Oxford was all booked up. I was shown to a large and not unpleasant anteroom with a lovely view of the lawn and the howling psychotics that peopled it, not so unlike similar facilities at Oxford. I had heard Dr. Bloomincracker’s health had been failing, which would hardly surprise any reader who knew the tale.

The great man entered the room on the arm of the Dean of Divinity, a Reverend Schoppinvax, who steered him into a chair facing mine. After the briefest of introduction, the good Reverend made his departure as if his hair were on fire.

Dr. Bloomincracker appeared before me as a glorious ruin. A man who in his youth had first made his name as a bear wrestler was now withered and hunched, although not yet 50 years of age. His once thick black hair was reduced to a motley of grey thatch and bare, splotched pate; his once imposing frame a twisted hulk; his fine broad forehead as lined as a map of Khartoum; his expressive lips and strong chin now hidden behind a wooly mustache and a goat’s beard. His attire had suffered in a similar manner: what had been once proper morning dress was now a wrinkled, grease stained mockery.

His notorious blue eyes, rumored to have had a dramatic effect on both truculent natives and the weaker sex, were now watery and reddened, and focused, it seemed, at two different distances behind, above and to the right of my face.

Without further ceremony, he reached into his waistcoat and produced a bundle of withered banana leaves, upon which were scribbled, perhaps in Sanskrit but certainly in wax pencil, something utterly inscrutable.

“Read this!” he demanded. A look of confusion must have passed over my face, but the good doctor did not seem to notice. Instead, he again stuck a hand into his waistcoat and produced a small package wrapped in a scrap of cloth.

“Would you like to see the Artifact?” He thrust the package at me without waiting for the answer. I took it gingerly in hand, and unwrapped it as the doctor fidgeted eagerly.

The cloth disgorged into my palm a small metallic oblong about the size of a robin’s egg. On each side was carved a squatting frog-god, on one side with eyes and mouth gaping, on the other with them closed. The remaining surface was curiously graven everywhere with indecipherable runes. A blood red and unshaped gem was savagely afixed to one end. I was struck with fear: it looked for all the world like a trinket one might pick up at a country fair, albeit from a country with very poorly developed aesthetics. I felt a sudden urge to toss the Artifact out the window, but feared I might harm one of the psychotic with which the lawn below was thick.

Before I could speak, the good doctor began telling me the tale that follows.