A couple of posts ago I mentioned an entire week felt like it had slipped away. Not so this week. But I did lose a day, or perhaps two. It’s a bit hard to say, really. By the time Thursday evening rolled around it still felt like either Tuesday or Wednesday, and as I contemplated what I would write on Friday I realized that once again I had missing time.

Perhaps I am being repeatedly kidnapped by space aliens and having my memories erased?

Yeah, I’m sure that’s it.

Wait. This is the internet. If I write that some idiot will believe it.

To be 100% clear, no, I was not kidnapped by aliens. That was a joke. I just had a couple of days where nothing much got done and thus I had no real way to mark the passage of time.

Oh, great. Now I sound defensive. The alien abductee crowd will claim I am deeply mislead or a shill for the Men In Black. There is no way to win now. Sigh.

I will get on with the post instead of worrying about it. Sorry.

All silliness aside, it was a mildly productive week. Before I get into some of those things, though, I will share three observations a la Game Of Thrones:

Yes that is a boring photo of our cars in the driveway, taken from my office window. But note the maple leaves on top of both cars and scattered over the driveway. You can even see a maple flyer or two. The tree making that mess is in the upper right corner. It’s huge and this is only the beginning. That tree will lose all its foliage and we will have to dispose of it.

Even worse, it is not the only deciduous tree on the lot. Not by a long shot. There are several Japanese maple trees along with a few other non-maple deciduous trees that will add to the leaf blizzard. And we have only two green waste bins into which to put all those leaves.

I asked a neighbour how the previous owners of our home disposed of all the leaves, but he had no answer. My guess is they just let the wind blow them all over the neighbourhood and thus let everyone else deal with many of them.

I, however, am putting them into the bins. But that will eventually become impractical due to their volume. As a result I am researching leaf shredding devices, but nothing I have seen so far has impressed me. More research is needed.

Also — as you may recall — Fall comes before Winter, and the first bags of salt for sidewalks are available for purchase at the local stores. Yikes! It’s a reminder that we need to buy a snow shovel when they also make their appearance in the stores. That cannot be too far off, given the way consumer driven capitalism works.

This past week has been bad. Our local air quality has been terrible thanks to drift smoke from the fires in Oregon and Washington. Vancouver — often called Raincity — could be called Smokecity.

There seem to be two air quality indexes in use. Locally we use a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is clean (low risk) air and 10+ is nasty, ugly, polluted, (high risk) air. The other scale is more commonly used elsewhere (particularly in the US) and goes from 0 to 500. On that scale 0–50 is good and anything over 100 starts to be bad for some groups, at least.

If you are curious, here is the forecast air quality for BC (which describes the locally used scale as well) and the EPA’s description of the other (AQI) index.

Most of this week the air quality as been at 10+ in the Vancouver area. We’ve been told to avoid strenuous work and to stay indoors. That’s everyone, not just those with medical conditions the smoke might aggravate. I found one website back on Tuesday saying our AQI was 176 on that other scale, which is well into the unhealthy range.

Today, though, our index has dropped all the way down to 9. Such an improvement. Sigh. (Yes, those sentences drip with sarcasm.)

Supposedly we are due for some rain tonight. That might help a bit, and the forecast shows the air quality down at a 4 on Saturday. All the way back to just moderately unhealthy. Yay. (Again, note the sarcasm.)

This lousy air has kept me from doing some things that I wanted to get done — like take a long walk. I have, however, done a few things outside anyway. Life must go on, and the house is not a great insulator from the smoke. It gets in, and I am not sure how much better off we are indoors at times.

For those suffering along with us, I am so sorry. It’s not fun. A friend of a friend apparently saw an AQI reading of 461 in California early this week. I don’t know how to compare that with our 10+ here, but it sounds awful. In any case, please take care of yourselves as best you can. May there be rain soon!

I have my ballot and voter information. I intend to fill it all out this weekend and FAX it back to the relevant people on Monday.

“Why FAX?” I hear you ask. And I must admit that FAX is an ancient technology that should be dead. But we have plenty of experience with the combination of Canada Post and the USPS. Mail sent that route can take weeks to get to its destination even under the best of circumstances. Some delays are due to Covid-19, I’m sure, but delivery times were long well before that was on the scene. To be certain our ballots are back in time I will go to the local Staples and FAX them in.

If I owned a FAX capable device I could do it myself, but that is not the case, and I don’t want to buy one. I also don’t have an account with any of the online FAX services. In the very rare instance where a FAX is useful, I will pay for the service. (Note that I am avoiding a rant here about just how lousy FAX technology actually is. It’s a thing, and we’re stuck with it.)

And for those wondering about voting over the internet, the answer is “NO!” Really. NO! It’s inherently unsafe. Here are two humorous takes on internet voting to consider:

The first one is right: if some solution (to any problem, not just internet voting) uses blockchain and claims more security as a result, bury it in the desert while wearing gloves! It’s the only way to be safe (assuming you can’t nuke it from orbit).

In any case, if you are allowed to vote in the USA, please do so. It matters.

Thus endeth the PSA.

With all that preamble out of the way, a couple of things did get done this week.

Last week I was told my description of the new garage door wasn’t adequate. I said it was a “roll-up” door, and it is, but apparently that is unclear to those unfamiliar with the terminology. After all, many garage doors with tracks roll up along those tracks, right? Are those roll-up doors? No, they are not. A typical, sectioned garage door has tracks that go back out into the garage itself, and when open the door is essentially flat and parallel to the ground. They are typically made of four panels, each somewhere between 18" and 24" high, running the full width of the opening.

A roll-up door is different. As it opens it actually rolls up around an axle suspended above the door opening. They are commonly used in industrial settings, but are now available for the home market. A roll-up door has sections just a few inches high, and there are many of them. All those extra hinge points mean they can roll up into a tight cylinder and keep out of the way of the interior of the garage.

To install this new door, a few changes are needed in the existing garage construction. First, additional supports are needed on either side of the opening to support the weight of the door and mechanism. And second, if there is any work to be done to the wall above the garage opening it should be done before the roll-up door is installed because there will be a large mechanism in the way afterwards.

The last post included this photo showing the interior of the door and the wiring issue I had encountered:

Note the wire on the left, which goes right through the area where the new door will be hung. Despite the smoke situation, that has now been remedied, and here’s the interior afterwards:

you want to get it

As you can see, the wire has been moved. Now it comes out of the wall on the left (through a PVC pipe hack) and goes up into a junction box. Then it continues across to a second junction box, from which it goes out and to the light on the exterior.

The junction boxes were needed because I had to cut the wire to move it, and the the new route is longer so wire had to be added to the middle of the run. And of course connections must be made inside a junction box. Wire nuts cannot just hang out in space or be buried inside a wall with no access.

Also visible are two new upright 2x4s on the left side of the opening, ready to support the new door when it gets installed.

Some excitement occurred when I realized that the centre electrical box was taking up space that might be needed for the door as it rolls up. I was halfway through this work when that thought hit me, and it seemed wise to consider removing that centre box entirely. I could do that by running a new wire all the way from the leftmost box across the ceiling and out to the light. Easy enough, I thought, so I went outside to remove the light to determine if I could fish a new wire through or not. Here is that fixture:

Not very exciting, eh? Two screws (top & bottom) holding down a plastic grid over a housing. Easy.

Except these are not young fixtures. My best guess is that they are 25 years old. The “glass” in there is actual glass — not transparent plastic — and it is heavy and thick as well. Combine that with the awkwardness of hanging on to it as you take it down and I did exactly what you’d expect: I dropped the glass and it shattered into a million pieces. Definitely not what I had in mind. What now?

Some three hours later, after a fair bit of research, the following had become obvious:

  • This style of light is called a “Marine” or “Marina” light.
  • No local stores sell a replacement for this glass. None sell this particular light — or an adequate replacement — either. At least not without a special order.
  • Several manufacturers make and sell something very similar to this light, but there is no way to tell if they are exactly the same or not. At least not without having one of them in hand.
  • Worst of all, the backing plate for this particular light is adhered to the side of the house in a way that makes it essentially impossible to remove. I suspect it was put down with silicone or caulk, but it might as well have been epoxy. This light cannot be removed without doing severe damage to the siding of the house.
  • Larger outdoor lights do exist — and they could cover the siding mess — but they would also have to be ordered.
  • And of course there is rain in the forecast. (Duh. This is Vancouver.) There is no eave on the house over this light, so it is very exposed to the weather. Without the glass it must be otherwise sealed up against possible rain until this problem is resolved. Joy.

I was fairly freaked out about this situation. I was trying to plan something involving plastic sheeting and gaffer tape to seal it up when Anne walked out, looked at what I’d done, and calmly mentioned that there are two other copies of that very same light on the house, and both of them are much less exposed to the weather.

In the immortal word of Homer Simpson: Doh!

So I went around the corner and stole the glass from another light, leaving it looking like this:

It is well protected, though, and it is not glued to the siding, so it can be replaced easily. Then I ordered a look-alike lighting fixture online. It should ship within a week. When it arrives I will check the fit of the glass in the old fixture. If it is compatible, I’m done. If it is different I can replace the old fixture with the new one and no one will even notice. Except for you, dear reader, so don’t tell anyone. OK?

This is all fine — if a bit expensive thanks to my idiocy — but the problem of the electrical box possibly interfering with the new garage door was still a thing. I decided “probably not” and finished the wiring (which works as expected after two light bulbs failed) and then contacted the garage door company to confirm it. It turns out they need 16" above the door opening and we have 17.5" to the electrical box. In other words there was never any cause for concern, and if I had just gone ahead with the electrical work without touching the light I could have avoided a lot of heartache. But I am dumb, so I didn’t do that.

In any case, the problem is now resolved, and when the replacement light arrives I will fix the rest of it one way or another.

I do still have to cover the insulation and framing openings above the garage door before the new one is installed, but that is a project for another day.

In much less exciting news, I made a repair to our side of the back neighbour’s fence. There was a place where a 1x2 had rotted away allowing the fence boards to be pushed through towards our home at the bottom. The neighbour had some leftover cedar 1x2 which he gave me, so I did this:

Original rotted situation on the left, repair in the middle, and a close up on the right. Not even an hour to do this work.

The main thing that happened this week, though, was not my project. We had contractors here to do the flashing around the chimney in the new roof, and to redo the way the boiler and water heater connect to the utility chimney. They arrived on time the first day, and got about 80% of the way through the flashing job. That was last Saturday. They were supposed to come again on Sunday but called just after noon to say that the job they were working was not going well and they would instead return on Monday. In fact they did arrive on Monday, and spent the whole day here finishing up.

Here’s what the utility room (in the garage) looked like before they arrived. Don’t let these photos fool you. It’s a little tiny room.

On the left (or top, depending on your screen and device) is the boiler, which provides hot water to the radiators that heat much of the first floor of the house in the winter. The photo in the middle shows the vent from that turning 90° and going — horizontally — into the chimney. The photo on the right shows the water heater doing the same thing.

As you might recall, that brick chimney had sulphur buildup on it visible at the top, and there was sulphur coming out of the vent pipe and landing on top of the boiler as well.

Here’s the same area when they were done:

Now the venting is sloped, rather than flat, and the two vents interconnect and go into a new aluminum liner that goes all the way up inside the chimney.

This should help keep the sulphur deposits down, and prevent additional damage to the chimney itself.

I’m not a huge fan of the way they left the vent pipe sticking out of the side of the chimney on the left, but it will do.

I don’t have a photo of the flashing. My judgment about it, though, is that it is merely OK. Now that I know what they were doing, I realize I could have done it myself. It would have taken me longer, but I could have accomplished it given time, and probably done a better job.

Still, it is done, and all it really has to do is protect some roofing material from UV light.

That leaves replacing the water heater and the garage door as the last work on the house itself that we are hiring others to do, at least for now. As mentioned above, the garage door replacement is in the works, though an install date is not set just yet. I have a quote for the water heater, but the company hasn’t responded to email in a couple of days, so I need to bug them again, or find another plumber to do that work.

Eventually there will be a bunch of tree work to get done too, but that is for future Jeff to worry about.

As I say, a moderately productive week, even if I lost a day or two to the flashing and chimney guys.

At this point I am itching to make some sculpture. I have a place for indoor work, at least mostly — there are some painting materials in the way, but they can be moved — but the garage studio is not yet ready to let me work out there. Lots still to get done to make that possible. Not sure when I will get back to it, but the drive is there.

I also have work to do for Xwalacktun relating to his CNC machine. I did look over his laptop and I have determined it is beyond my skill to repair. It throws up the BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) with various error messages at random times. If it was stable enough to let me try something simple, I might be able to fix at least one of those issues, but it’s not. I cannot tell if this is a problem with just the software, or if there is also a hardware issue. And should you spend money repairing a four year old laptop that also needs an update to Windows 10 and a new battery, or do you just buy a new one? That’s a tough decision, and I will leave it to Xwalacktun once I have a better handle on the software he needs.

To finish, I leave you with this article:

That is the single best article I have read summarizing the best understanding we have of how Covid-19 spreads, and what we can do about it. The short version: wear a mask. It will protect you (to at least some degree) as well as protect others if you are sick.

It’s really a good read. A nice, concise, approachable summary of where we stand on how Covid-19 is transmitted and what to do about it.

Stay safe out there!

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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