Thursday 30 December 2010

In Which I take a Day Off

Well, if a day of aching limbs, bloody snot, chest full of glue, and inability to stand up without holding on to something counts.
I'm trying to decide whether the 12 year Bowmore single malt will mix better with the Covonia, or the Bell's cough medicine. The Covonia is the most disgusting taste, like something you'd use to paint a ship's bilges. Whereas the bell's, hmm I could develop a taste for that....
Last winter, I bought a cough syrup with menthol and other stuff. It tasted just like a liquid version of the "Victory-V" lozenges of my youth, that tasted of ether....
Oh yes. in 1864, when pharmacist Thomas Fryer first made them as a symptomatic reliever for the common cold, they contained "pulverised sugar, linseed, liquorice, ether, chlorodyne (a soothing mix of cannabis and chloroform) and pure acacia gum".
I think they've dropped the cannabis these days. 
When I was little, and had a cough, or snuffly nose, my grandfather would go to a mahogany box on the dresser, and get out a tin of victory vs. With great ceremony, he'd snap one in two with the blade of his clasp-knife, and give me a half to suck- no crunching allowed. 
There was a strict limit.  They used to be rationed to 1/4lb per customer because they contained chloroform which was used as an anaesthetic, and if you ate too many they could knock you out! Three halves was the most he would ever give us, therefore leading us to believe it was highly potent medicine. 
I loved those sweets.... could have become addicted, given half a chance. So.. Cough syrup that tasted just the same? Oh yes. I wanted to try it with Vodka. But I could never find another bottle. Maybe it was withdrawn from sale because too many people had the same reaction as me. So here I am... Midnight, I've slept much of the day. Feeling a bit better now.  Still haven't opened the whisky. A cup of hot tea appeals more. Assam, of course.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

The "Holiday" Continues.

Today there was some mending to do. Remember that valve that refused to co-operate? Bad Valve! You annoyed me.
Here come the persuaders, pal!

Oh. And a little tickle of oxy-acetylene. Oh I just love a good destruction of an inanimate enemy. 


Hahahahahaha!!!!!! Take that, evil valve. Tomorrow, the spare valve goes in, and eventually I'll strip down the bad one, and see if it's worth repairing. It's probably from about 1923, so I suppose it's due a bit of attention.

Then there was the job to do at the tower top... When it was all done someone (not me) decided to try the lift. All was well until it reached the third floor, when a loud bang, a shower of sparks (and molten copper droplets) suggested there might be an electrical problem.
Oh great. And I'm supposed to be at a family meal, which is booked in a fifty mile distant eatery, in a couple of hours. 
So I kill the power to the lift motor room, and to the shaft, and unscrew the roof-hatch on the lift. The culprit is eventually tracked down as a piece of "pyro" cable, copper sheathed and mineral insulated, that once fed a "lift arrived" light above the door. When the tower was lined with plasterboard, instead of bare brick, some clever soul had removed the outside light, leaving the old cable still live in a hole in the door-frame, just filled and painted over. 
That was fine when everything was dry, and it was all hidden by filler and paint, nobody knew, nobody got hurt, except... Today, that frame was wet, hundreds, maybe a thousand gallons had cascaded down the tower, and, of course, some of that drenched the doors and poured into the shaft.
The cable becomes live only when the lift energises the door interlock. So I had to remove that redundant cable and check it all out for electrical safety.
Don't try this at home kids.

Oh look:  a distant glint of water from the swimming pool in the bottom of the shaft.

What's that... reports of a leaking pipe under the gym?  I'll go deal with that, shall I?
And a funny burning smell elsewhere?
Happy holidays.
No, I didn't get to the meal.
Next year, maybe?

Tuesday 28 December 2010

The Holiday Season Proves to be Otherwise

It was not exactly going to be a surprise that my holiday would be interrupted. The company, in its infinite goodness, gave me friday 24th december to monday 3rd january inclusive... But questions were asked as to how far away I'd be, and I've got a heap of contact numbers and a bucketful of keys made ready for emergencies. Last job on thursday was to put together a rapid-response toolkit for quick grabbing, on the workshop table.

First call was on christmas day... A security man had spotted water seeping under a door. I told him where to find a stop-valve, and went briefly the following day, to check, split water pipe, water off, concrete floor, no real damage. Note it down for my return.
Boxing day.. or the day after christmas... My boss calls to say the security guy's called him to report a hissing sound on another site. He's been out there, in the dark, and found what he thinks is a slight leak on a fire-sprinkler, so he's turned the main valve off, and we arrange to meet early on monday morning.
Oh my. Fire sprinklers.

That particular mill has a system that's currently air-filled. That's because of the risk of freezing in unheated areas. The fire sprinklers are little brass things mounted on pipes, high up, all over the place. You'll have seen them, even if you don't know what they are. Factories, supermarkets, hospitals, hotels, airports, schools, all manner of larger buildings have them.
Usually there's a little glass phial visible, filled with liquid (often, but not always, red).
In the event of a fire, that little phial starts to get hot. The liquid in it, usually an alcohol mix, expands as it gets warmer, just as the red alcohol in a thermometer does. There's a bubble of free space to allow a certain amount of expansion, but at a set-point, (for the red bulb, 68 degrees C, or 155 degrees F), the bulb breaks. When in position, the bulb was holding a little brass cone in place, which in turn was holding back the water (or in our case, air)... Ploosh!
In theory, an air-filled system is immune to freezing.
Before winter, we drained the pipework, and filled the system with compressed air. in theory, all the piework is installed sloping toward the drainpoints, so it all empties.
In practice, a few lengths of pipe seem not to have emptied, ice has formed in the pipe and expanded. The weakest part is the brass cone under the sprinkler bulb. Ice forces past it and deforms it.

The sprinkler, thank heavens, does not activate because the pipe is plugged with dirty black ice. (Black? yes, because the iron pipe corrodes a little, but theres not a lot of  oxygen available, so the more common form of red iron oxide,   Fe2O3, is not found, but black iron oxide, magnetite,  Fe3O4   is abundant).
When it becomes a problem is when it melts.
Because then, air in the pipes will hiss out, carrying some filthy water, until the pressure back in the control valves drops below the trigger point... Then, in seconds, a valve will drop, a boost pump will kick in, and about fifty tons of water will all try to race to the break-point.

The ones I photographed were the easy ones, only about 8 feet up, in an office.
The tricky ones are 25 feet up just under the roof. I have to unscrew them, thaw the plug of ice in the hole with a gas torch, then screw a fresh one in, wrapping the threads in ptfe tape to seal them. One hand for the wrench, one hand for the pipe, one hand for the gas torch, and one hand to hang onto the ladder. Oh. I see there's a problem there, then. Oh well.

And it was going well, until one of the high-level ones started to hiss very ominously. And then a sound of rushing thunder... "But valve number two's turned off... even if the valve's dropped it can't fill, surely...."
"Oh shit!" yells my boss, abandoning his ladder-footing position and setting off at a run to the sprinkler house, where armageddon has kicked in.
My ladder's leaning on nothing, really. Just a three-inch piece of roof truss. And the foot's on a fairly slick concrete floor. And there was nowhere to attach a safety harness. And my safety man's left at a run. Just as the water gets there, in my face. Boom! 100 gallons per minute is the design rate. Out of a tank that had 9" of ice on the top. And black too. And it's trying to pluck me off the ladder, and I can feel the ladder moving...
I have never, ever, gone so fast down a ladder. Apart from being drenched to the skin in freezing black water, and the temperature being still below freezing, and the snow falling outside... I felt quite lucky, considering the other possibility.

I go open the big drain valves, and a fire door to outside, and gradually the water slows.
My fingers don't work.

I set off outside and up to the sprinkler house, where bells are jangling and a siren warbling, my boss is busy turning valves, as I shut down the alarms and the boost pump.
He's swearing and just a bit agitated.
Why? Because the sprinkler layout plan, kept in the sprinkler house, as required by the fire authorities and the insurance, clearly states that valve-set two covers the area in which we are working. Valve set two was off, and no water was flowing.
But valve-set one was at full blast.
Just  a few weeks ago the system had its annual check and service. How is it that for YEARS, since their installation, perhaps, the valves have been labelled wrongly? Why haven't the pros who do our alterations, and maintenance pointed it out? because the only way we're ever going to find out is at the wrong end of an emergency.
So the job that was to take a couple of hours of my holiday became a full day. With wet clothes, and below freezing temperatures. Yes, I have waterproofs, and no, they were on another site. as were my dry clothes.

Do you want to hear about today?
6" pipe, 150 pounds per square inch pressure, at the top of the tower, boom!......
Waterfall down six flights of stairs.... And I'm going uphill in the dark, because the water's blown all the lights. All I can see in my head-torch's beam is falling water... Up to the top of the stairs, then up a steel  ladder, in a waterfall. Toward the thunder.
This time, though, I'm in waterproofs.

Best pic I could get, looking up at the bottom of the sprinkler tank, the joint by the bend had failed, and this was  after I'd shut the water off. I've never tried to calculate how many tons of water are up there, the other side of that inch or so of iron. um....
Quick calculation gives me about sixty tons

It was a problem that required me to return to ground level, and try turn a valve in a basement off. But the valve's stiff, rusted up, ancient. It has been off earlier this year though, I know it works. I just need more leverage, a wrench, maybe.
Although I hate carrying it, my 48" "Record" wrench comes into its own at a time like this.

Good thing too, or I'd have had to use a bigger one.
I think the biggest I've got is the seven foot chain-wrench. and you can slip a few extra feet of scaffold pole on the end if you really need to be brutal. The downside of that chain wrench is that I can just carry it, but not without cursing.

Tomorrow? still officially on holiday, I'll be in at work by eight. I suppose I'll get paid, or get a few days off in lieu.

Wednesday 22 December 2010


Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,
Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,

Tempus adest gratiae, hoe quod optabamus;
carmina laetitiae devote reddamus.
Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,
Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,

Deus homo factus est, natura mirante;
mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante.
Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,
Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,

Ezecaelis orta clausa per transistur;
unde lux est orta, salus invenitur.
Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,
Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,

Ergo nostra contio psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino; salus regi nostro.
Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,
Gaudete! gaudete!
Christus est natus ex Maria virgine,

From the 1972 album, "Below the Salt" by Steeleye Span... actually the first song I heard by Steeleye Span was an a capella cover of Buddy Holly's "Rave on", complete with crackles and jumping needle line repeats.
I also misheard their name.
I was looking in the record shop for "The Steel-Ice Band" Anyway, somehow I came home with "Please to See the King", their second album. And was hugely disappointed when I discovered it wasn't quirky rock'n'roll spoofery, but a set of boring old folk songs. All that finger-in-one-ear dronery....
Then I listened again.
Then again.
And again...

And I was addicted.

Here, have another one, from that first album I bought....

Saturday 18 December 2010

Captain Beefheart Is Gone!

Don Van Vliet, Captain Beefheart, (January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010), died of "complications caused by multiple sclerosis".

It's no secret that Soubriquet has been a fan, somewhat, of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band since he first heard the scratchy voice and manic dark boogie, back one late night, listening to John Peel's radio show in 1969. Yes, 1969. 
Forward a few years, to 1973, and moving on to higher education, after a year of working... Ha! a gap year!
Anyway, here I was, a quiet, sensitive, shy (yes, shy, i really was shy), bookreading arty geek, and on arrival at college, and being allocated accommodation, I learned that i was expected to share a room. AAAAAARGH! Nobody'd mentioned that before! With a stranger! And me a very happy to be solitary person, the cat who walked alone?
I was shown to the room, I remember it well. CC3, it was.
A square room, two beds, two desks, built-in cabinets and a washbasin, stunning panoramic view from the windows.
And a large mound of a human. Bearded, lying on one bed, covered with a duffel coat, moaning about a headache. Oh god. Rugby boots! I've been put in with a sports creature. Me? I was a sports avoider. Muddy oafs kicking leather orbs were not my sort of people.
Later in the day, after I'd had a wander around the campus, I returned to the room and the creature stirred. I'd put my cassette player on the window ledge, and the bearded man-mountain asked what music I had.
I replied "You probably won't like it", and put on a cassette of Captain Beefheart, "Mirror Man".  
That was the moment that broke the ice. Duncan pulled a couple of bottles of beer out of his bag, I revealed a bottle of twelve-year-old Glenfiddich.
Dunc was a Beefheart fan too,  (and a glenfiddich fan), in fact we shared a lot of similar musical tastes, and became an unlikely seeming pair of best friends.
We're still friends now. There was a little awkwardness when I married his girlfriend, but hey, she's long gone and our friendship remains.

So Captain Beefheart, 
Saw him live in 1972, Leeds University, '73 oxford polytechnic, '74, New Theatre Oxford.
No more.

Seam Crooked Sam

The mule kicked off a new one
and the stockings ran up Seam Crooked Sam
bandana frock stuffed with smoke
and ears out flopped like bowlin' pins
hog troughs hocked and wallered in cool mud bins
and patent leather hooves
split in twos
rooms for rent down t' Ben's
Frendsa danced in a frenzy
choked a juke bird with froth glass ferns
and turpentine urns her sawdust daily keep
and whiskey creeps down her neck naked front
and red leatherette
peen button set where her fanny sweat
raised her wrist-a-fan and a mouse coughed cotton
through a screen door cracked sand
rooms rent only to friends
Hat Rack Hotel
architecture tincture of red Arkies pinched the southern belle
and splayed his cracked nail hand
grey fedora - snappy band
and the camel walls yelluh like damp dead chickens
beak down the hard wood floor
and the music - O the music
harp man blew his best lung white shirt
his feet worked like a monkey out the door
and Dora robbed a baby through a dark bebop
licorice lenses fogged in hot sorrow
through the floorboards at the general store
yuh foods still in the hot hand oven
apple pie cooked through a seed bruised stem eye
sticky in the window of Momma Frame Broke
rope bell dinglin'
"Children, I won't call yuh once more."

By the painter and poet once known as Captain Beefheart,
Who deserves more recognition as a poet.
12 May 2009
12 May 2009
Ah Feel Like Ahcid Got a letter uh, this morning how do you reckon it read?Red blue and green whoooo all through my headlicked the stamps saw a movie dropped the stampi ain't got no blues no more I saidput me up thinkin' a postman's ...
09 Jun 2007
09 Jun 2007
Electricity (Don Vliet / Herb Bermann) Singin through you to me; thunderbolts caught easily. Shouts the truth peacefully Eeeeeee-lec-tri-ci-teeeeeeee. High voltage man kisses night to bring the light to those who need ...
12 May 2008
12 May 2008
Distant cousins, there's a limited supply. And we're down to the dozens, and this is why: Big Eyed Beans from Venus! Oh my, oh my. Boys and girls, Earth people around the circle, Mixtures of man alive. Big eyed beans from Venus, ...
02 Feb 2007
02 Feb 2007
apple pie cooked through a seed bruised stem eye sticky in the window of Momma Frame Broke rope bell dinglin' "Children, I won't call yuh once more." By the painter and poet once known as Captain Beefheart, ...

Wednesday 15 December 2010

The New Shockwave Rider

Back in my teenage years I devoured books even faster than I do now. It's a mystery to me how  I managed to have a life outside books as well. I read anything and everything, I used to have a rule that if I started something, I must read it to the end.
That rule, I have now discarded.  If I read a book whose stupidity severely offends me, I launch it into oblivion. Books that were monumentally stupid and offensive, I have, in the past, used as food for the fire. No, it's not a book-burning as such, just a bit of darwinian pruning. A book that has won the opposite of my approval might need to be stopped in its tracks before it can waste another minute of anyone else's life. And if being so stopped, it helps to heat my bathwater, then it's done one good deed in its life.

I used to read a lot of science-fiction, which is a genre full of opportunity for social comment and speculation. Most non-sf readers seem to think it's all rocket-ship men with blasters fighting evil green-skinned aliens. No. And it's not Star Wars, either. Many science fiction writers have been scientists, and hugely well respected ones too. Isaac Asimov, for one. Another was Arthur C. Clarke.
Clarke wrote 2001, A Space Odyssey, a great book, and a beautiful, baffling, prescient film.
Clarke invented the geostationary (Staying always above the same point on the globe. orbiting at the same speed as the planet rotates) telecommunications satellite. His books had them before Telstar first beeped and crackled transatlantic television into life.
Know what the name for a geostationary orbit is?
"Clarke Orbit".
Another writer whose works were full of philosophy and future prediction, was John Brunner. Way back, in 1975, he wrote a book set in a future where a huge computer network holds our data, banks our money, builds our cars, dispatches our bombers, runs our industry, even runs our jails.
Back in 1975, Brunner saw something very akin to our internet. He invented a character, who had worked creating the Net, but had decided to opt out. Our hero uses his coding skills to hide from the net, he erases traces of himself, with portions of self replicating code, which search through the net for references to him and erase them.
The authorities are chasing him, because his knowledge is a threat to them if used against them.
The title is a reference to Alvin Toffler's "Future Shock", published in 1970. Brunner's character is the Shockwave Rider, surfing the wave, the shockwave that is the future.
The more he tries to live off the grid, below the radar, the more the authorities seek to locate him.
He changes identity and appearance regularly, and, as I said, he writes protective code... He calls his code fragments "tapeworms", because they burrow into the web and self replicate.
One of his worms has a job of keeping him alive and safe, which it does by constantly checking he is alive, safe, and free.  If it is not reassured that he is safe, it will, from multiple locations, unstoppably, release all manner of  embarrassing revelations, government data, secret files, etcetera.

Seems vaguely familiar? Oh yes. Julian Assange's insurance against being 'disappeared' by the U.S. government is just the same.
If  he is silenced, assassinated, disappeared, extra-ordinarily rendered, 'terminated with extreme prejudice', If he dies of a mystery sickness, if his car runs off the road and into a concrete bridge-pillar, then, all around the world, torrents of secret files will be unlocked, everywhere, unstoppable.
Assange is a modern shockwave-rider.

How do I view him?
Is he a spy or a traitor or a rapist?
I don't think he is.
Whilst he's referred to as all of these by some U.S. politicians, firstly, the allegations of 'rape' are not quite that. It seems the main misdemeanour is that during consensual sex, a condom split, and he failed to stop.
The woman in question apparently has withdrawn her co-operation with swedish prosecutors, and left the country. In any normal scenario, it would seem the prosecutors would not feel the need to extradite a person on such evidence. My opinion, and a common one too, is that the allegations are being used to get him sent back to Sweden, where he'd be handed over to U.S hands, bundled aboard a CIA chartered jet, to an unknown destination, Guantanamo? no, somewhere even more deniable, where methods of torture forbidden under U.S. and international law would be used upon him, until his sources were all exposed, and wikileaks silenced forever.

I hope the shockwave rider's insurance policy protects him. No, I'm not blindly defending a spy, I'm defending a man who was brave enough to show us a little of how we're being lied to.

Sunday 12 December 2010

On Value

I wrote recently about the perception of value. 
We live in a world that  thrives on disposable artifacts that we value very little. We see blemishes as reason enough to discard all manner of items. Things, all manner of things, are cheap and easy to acquire.  Yes, we moan about how much everything costs, but in reality we are rich beyond the dreams of our forebears.
Nobody forces us down the mines as tiny children. We don't grow up malnourished, our bones bent from rickets, humble peasants like myself can travel to foreign lands, I even have my own horseless carriage. 
In an earlier time, goods were made to last, furniture was handed down for generations. I wonder how many of today's "designer" artifacts will survive into the next century. Will your grandchildren squabble over possession of your antique ikea bedstead?

The picture below is not a good one, I took it in low light, with reflections, I'm sure a google search would find a better example, but for my purposes, I prefer it as it is. 
Here we have a Chinese bowl. I can't be a hundred percent sure, I'd say Sung dynasty, and at some point it was dropped and broken. Someone valued it so highly, that the shards were gathered up, and a repairer was summoned to reassemble it, drilling and joining the pieces with wire staples, maybe gold, maybe bronze, from below, and filling the crack-lines with urushi lacquer, (made from tree-sap), mixed with powdered gold. This was a slow, painstaking repair, an art of itself. 

Where, to us, cracks imply worthlessness, the gold-filled cracks in this pot tell us a story of how someone loved it, how it was nursed back to health, treated with gold, and restored to its position as a treasured possession.

The gold,  apart from being in itself a decoration and a statement of wealth,  serves another very real purpose. It shields the lacquer from the destructive effects of ultraviolet light in sunlight, and also strengthens it. Perhaps it protects somewhat against heat too. 
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Record Breaking

How did that happen?
I was just idly thinking of tidying up the sidebar when I noticed that I'd posted 22o times this year.

7 posts in 2006, (but I only started on the 26th December),
218 in 2007
132 in 2008
177 in 2009
220 so far, in 2010

This is, for some undisciplined reason, the most blogposty year so far.
Yet when I looked, I thought I'd been neglecting the blog this year, came very close, a couple of times to ditching it.
And I still don't know what it's about, or how I'd describe it if I had to categorise.

'Blog', it is said, is a contraction of web-log. Maybe once upon a time there were navigators, navigatrices of the interweb, who kept a log "Captain's log, stardate:****. At three-bells in the forenoon watch there was a voltage spike that caused the screen to flicker.
Noonday sights threw up a '404 not found' error. Connectivity good, but graphics loading slowly. Have sent a party to resplice the optic cabling near the street nexus.
All well...........
Argh!!! crew has gone berserk and is hammering on my door..... I will defend myself with the fire-axe, as best I can... if I do not return, pray for me...."

Should I quit?

Saturday 11 December 2010

We Had a Break-In

Into an empty office, from adjoining premises. They cut a steel grille, smashed the double-glazed window. The windows are tinted obscured glass, you can't see in.
The office was unoccupied, and nothing was stolen.

What they missed was the carpet. It's value, according to auctioneers who sold some furniture from those offices, is over £1200. About $1900.
We've moved it out of there now.

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2 Pee, Or Not 2 Pee.

That is the question.
One of friday's jobs involved a flooded shop due to a burst pipe.  On further investigation, the toilet upstairs was seen to be frozen solid... Down to the very bottom. The water in the tank was also as liquid as a brick. Surprisingly, the ice had not split the porcelain.
There's a little wall mounted heater, low powered, about 100 watts, or less, in the room. But it was not turned on. The tenant was surprised that the pipes had frozen. They're on the uninsulated outside wall, and the night-time temperatures have been hitting -10C or thereabouts for the last couple of weeks, daytimes have rarely climbed above freezing.

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Potter and Blogger gz, in her latest post, tells of a cold day in a market hall, where she sold nothing.
This in the gift-buying season. Yes, it's cold, but not everybody is stuck in their burrow, waiting for spring.

Yet she sold nothing all day. Shivering, stomping feet, breath misting in the cold, and the pots to be packed up and all taken home again. Her pots? Take a look at her gallery pictures.

I commented to her:
"I'm very sorry to hear your sales woes.
That was the same stuff that demoralised me, packing up to go to a market or craft fair, and at the end of it, realising my sales had not paid the costs.

Context, context. Like you say, people devalue what they see in a market. Put the same pot on a pedestal in a white-painted gallery, and it's special, they understand that it has value, simply because of where it is.
Because people they think must somehow know more than them have elevated it.

How can we fix these skewed perceptions? Because the pot in the gallery is probably overvalued, just as the market undervalues. Where's the fair ground, the honest appraisal?
Who can do it? Who sets a value? We potters surely aren't the best judges of our own work.

Your experience led me to think of something I read quite a while ago.
Go here and read of an experiment:
Imagine Shoji Hamada in Abergavenny.
"Well this one's not quite round, and the rim's uneven. Can I have it at half-price?"

 What do you think?

I leave you with a video, of world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell, playing in a subway station, on a three and a half million dollar stradivarius.
Three days earlier, he'd played to a packed house at the 2600  seat Boston's Symphony Hall, where seats were around $100.
Here, he took thirty two dollars in 45 minutes.

Yes, it was commuting time, we're time-constrained, but we have an acclaimed musician, and out of 1,097 passengers, only seven stopped to listen.
Perception of value.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

She said "No you cannot see, Oh no you cannot see- my naked body."

This song, this song in particular, reminds me of summer evenings, sitting on the porch of the little yellow house, watching the sun setting, with a plate of food, a bottle of beer, a couple of good friends, all of us lazing, dreaming, and Leonard Cohen  singing in the candle-lit house behind us.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

An Observation on Earthmovers

Earthmovers, bulldozers, diggers, they're often referred to in a somewhat negative way, earth-rippers, despoilers of the planet.
But on my way home from work today, a different side of the heavy plant story occurred to me, when I saw this...

 And this...

Yes, when the men in hard-hats and steel-toed boots leave the site, the  laughter and swearing's fading, engines are hushed, it's then, and only then, that you'll see the protective, nurturing instincts of a mother excavator.


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Another Chilly Day

And now I'm home and it's snowing again.

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Self Inflicted

Recently, I was told to put on my heating-repair-guru hat, and go try solve the chilly woes of a tenant. This guy rents several thousand square feet of warehousing plus an office from us. He grumbles, bitches  and moans, perpetually, about every little thing. A squeaking door hinge, a flickering light, a smell nobody else can detect. Usually these complaints come just after he's received a reminder that his rent payment is overdue. He rents the building on what is referred to as a full repairing lease, meaning that he's responsible for the interior state of the buildings, anything that fails or needs maintenance is up to him, when the lease ends, or is renewed, the premises must be in as good a state of repair and decoration as they were when the lease was signed.
We will do all the works, if required, and charge them to the tenant. This guy chose to get another contractor to do his heating service and repair, because he thought we were too expensive.
So, since the end of september, his heating in the warehouse has not worked. He got his contractor to service it, and the guy issued a certificate to say all was working correctly. He got his contractor to come back and fault-find the unit. Their diagnosis was that the ignition-control unit was shot, and very expensive to replace. They quoted him several thousand pounds for a new heater, which they said was only sensible, as, if they replaced the ignition, who could say something else, like the gas-valve, might be just waiting to expire? He hired mobile, (and expensive to run), heaters for his warehouse staff but only after they'd threatened to walk out.
Then, as a last resort, he rang our office and asked for me to come and quote for fixing the problem.
I started by undoing two screws, on the timer control, this is what I found.
Can you, dear reader, repair the heater for a minimal fee? In ten seconds or less?
Might the service contractor be either: a- incompetent, or: b- dishonest?
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