The Blog of Zakspade

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  Woe No More
Monday 30 December, 2019

I learnt a lesson: leave things to the professionals.

The bathroom leak has been fixed and all is well with the cistern. No drama, no fuss, no bother. I had spent two weeks agonising over the issue before today. I mentally prepared myself for all manner of destruction in the quest for the required access. The method of construction by the previous house owner seemed to be that of a monkey with brain damage. That was something the plumber seemed to agree with, although he did add that it isn’t uncommon to see such methods used.

One cut, one panel removed, one worktop to replace using a method that allows for future access.

So simple, I’m left wondering why I didn’t bite the bullet and just call a plumber at the start!

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  Bathroom Woes
Saturday 28 December, 2019

It was just over a week back that I spotted a small amount of water on the floor beside the toilet bowl while addressing a faulty ballcock in the cistern.

No, the water was just water, in case anyone wondered.

The ballcock requires renewal as it sometimes doesn’t sealing and the cistern tries to overfill, with the excess being dumped in the toilet in a steady, but annoyingly loud, trickle. Access is going to require pretty major surgery due to the cowboy manner of the original installation. However, having temporarily stopped the cistern being filled nonstop through flushing it until it worked properly, I settled for laying down tissue to try and identify whether a leak existed. Whatever might be happening looked to be slight and could wait until the New Year had started – I hoped.

The tissue test seemed to prove my fears: we did have a leak, but from where? It was seeping from the rear of the toilet and after using a mirror and a torch, I suspected the waste pipe joint where it exited the toilet. Tissue testing also revealed that the seepage I had noticed had probably not been happening for very long as the regularity of mopping up was enough to tell me it wasn’t a mere weep. So a plumber was sought.

The plumber arrived and looked at the pipe work. To gain access was going to require wrecking the units. Who tiles over removable panels in a manner that requires the removal of the wall tiles behind the unit? The previous homeowner, it seems.

The plumber reached down and had a fiddle with the flexible waste pipe and came to the same conclusion as me: water was getting past the rubber seal about the exit stub from the toilet. Was it possible I could cope and contain the seeping water until next week after Christmas? If so he could address the dodgy cistern at the same time.

Given how he intended to fix everything (a judicious cut with a specialist saw to remove a panel rather than wrecking the whole thing), and my assessment that I could manage to successfully contain the weep with tissue paper until his return, I agreed.

Christmas passed pleasantly and, equally pleasantly, I noticed the leak was no more. After a few renewals of tissue, everything remained dry. I figured that when he had stuck his arm down behind the unit, blindly, he had managed to wedge the pipe on a little more firmly. Whatever, that bathroom was out of commission until the job could be done properly. Thank goodness for ensuite bathrooms!

Then this morning I glanced into the bathroom as I made my way towards the stairs. The tissue laid about the toilet was soaked. A quick inspection resulted in my collecting up masses of sodden tissue and the first dry covering I laid became wet through within moments. The leak was clearly back, but now it had developed serious attitude.

I spent the next hour mopping up and trying to determine why the leak had returned. The bathroom had been unused since the plumber’s visit. The only times I had ventured in there since his inspection was when I was required to lay fresh, dry tissue, and that had ceased shortly after he had gone.

The cistern hadn’t been isolated. So my first thought was that maybe it was quietly overflowing into the toilet. There was no visible sign, so I took a dry tissue and wiped it about the whole bowl. It was bone dry. The water source wasn’t from the cistern and through the toilet. However, if the waste pipe was the culprit, then a water source had to exist as the toilet hadn’t been flushed since.

I decided to try the same trick with a fumble of the waste pipe where it met the back of the toilet. Maybe I’d get lucky, but equally I feared I may not. If I made the leak worse, then without access to the location I was facing a leak through the floor and ceiling and onto the new sofa below. As I toyed with the idea, I pondered on where the source lay. I just couldn’t see it being ‘downstream’ of the toilet. It seemed unimaginable that waste water was coming up the waste pipe. Could a partial blockage be the cause? If so, then surely any water pooled in a pipe would be exhausted eventually. That would explain the leak appearing to vanish, but wouldn’t account for its enthusiastic return.

After a fiddle I prepared myself for a period of mopping up due to the water already leaked making its way out from under the unit. What I hadn’t expected was an increase!

There was a panicked attempt to reach an emergency plumber. The plumber I had booked for this coming Monday wasn’t contactable. I still couldn’t see where the water was coming from, but I was now forced to renew the tissue paper every fifteen minutes. Sure, I could keep on top of things until Monday, but that would require the purchase of a dozen more rolls of kitchen paper and my staying awake through Saturday and Sunday night. Having discounted the possibility that water had been backing up from the sewer waste piping, an increase in water had not been expected!

Although I was almost certain that water wasn’t making its way through the toilet from the cistern, I reckoned on removing any possibility by isolating it and flushing it dry. This I did. It was so nice to flush it but not hear it filling. Maybe an odd reaction after a flush, but this was fast becoming an odd, but desperate situation.

It was then, as I had been fiddling with a screwdriver and a torch in the cramped space to reach the isolation screw, I spotted the sparkle of a water droplet on top of the flexible waste pipe behind the toilet.

That was a game changer.

I checked the main flush pipe from the cistern to the top of the rear of the toilet and my hand came back into sight, wet. A further check with bits of dry tissue revealed that water had been coming down the pipe and dripping onto the flexible waste pipe. Think of one of those hoses people stick out of their kitchen windows when using a tumble dryer. The folds are very capable of holding water and like a window pane covered in condensation, eventually all that water is released upon being disturbed and it dumps the lot and a pool forms on the window ledge.

Cistern empty; toilet flush feed pipe dry and no longer leaking; supply of fresh and dry tissue at the ready – I waited. The next thirty minutes was spent swapping out wet tissue with dry as whatever invisible pool of water was exhausted.

No apparent leak now. No bathroom usage either. However, all is well and awaiting the attention of a plumber who understands the vagaries of water.

Sometimes the obvious is so obvious it is discounted.

   
  Dimensions
Sunday 22 December, 2019

It’s Friday. An email received from Hermes (Hermes Parcelnet Ltd) at 9:40 this morning told me they would be delivering a much anticipated parcel between four and six o’clock later in the day.

It was handy knowing this. The day was wet and rainy. The forecast promised much more of the same but I wanted to head out to run a few errands. Knowing I could get things done earlier in the day was good. So, at 11:45 I headed out of my house with my wife and daughter. I expected to be home again no later than half-past-two and so I figured that being in for the rest of the day would mean my parcel would be received.

Having dropped my wife and daughter off I was then free to post a couple of small parcels at my local post office. It made a change to my walking there from home. Ironically, given I had my car with me, although the sky was black and threatening, the rain had ceased.

At 12:11 an email arrived on my mobile phone telling me that Hermes had delivered my parcel. Blast! Never mind, the email did say the delivery was successful, so the eagerly awaited parcel would be ready with a neighbour, or similar, when I eventually got home. Then I read on...

Your parcel has been delivered at 12:10 by your local courier and was signed for at the delivery address.

That worried me. I was in a queue to the post office counter having dropped the only other human occupants of my household off five minutes earlier. I was confused how anyone could have signed for the package as none of my dogs can hold a pen (or stylus). Also, when out of the house I close them away out the back so they don’t bark whenever someone walks past the front. They can’t open the internal door, let alone the front door. Perhaps I had slipped into another dimension as I waited to get to the head of the queue.

As I walked from the post office back to my car, I pondered over how things had panned out. Was the email just something sent as a result of the van driver having checked the wrong box on his PDA signing device?

I looked at the gloomy sky and thanked my lucky stars that my next errand would also be done by car as I feared what seemed about to be unleashed upon the ground by the clouds above.

Eventually I had all my chores done and I returned to collect my wife and daughter. We then headed back home. I smiled at the fact that despite the evil intent above, no rain had fallen – knowing in my heart that had I been walking, the story would have been very different. Upon my approach to my driveway, I saw the parcel on my doorstep. It was clearly marked as a Christmas delivery and the label had Hermes in large letters writ upon it. The parcel was 90x70x30 centimetres in size and made from cardboard. It was far too big to be hidden in a wheelie bin. I knew the item inside to also be within a cardboard box. Amazingly it hadn’t rained in the two-and-a-bit hours since the email told me it had been ‘delivered’ and a signature obtained for it.

Oh, and my front door has no awning over it – if you call and wait for a reply, you get rained upon.

So while I am pleased that the rain held off long enough so as to not write-off something destined to be a Christmas present to someone, I am less pleased to understand that someone claimed they had me sign and take the parcel.

I will be taking this one up with Hermes and the company I bought from.

   
  Sorry, I Couldn't See You, Mate
Tuesday 17 December, 2019

It’s wet and raining. The length of the walk to the post office is more than I’d like, but unless I develop mystical powers, the rain will not be mysteriously diverted about me to leave me untouched by the weather.

I remember days gone by when I rode a motorcycle. I covered a huge mileage annually and it hardly seemed to make any difference whether it was raining or not. A journey of over 130 miles was just a journey. The rain was just the rain. The start would become the end, regardless.

However, I recall passing my driving test and supplementing my transport with a car. Within weeks I found that when it rained, the twenty seconds walk to where my car was parked across the road from where I lived was much too far and the experience of having to suffer the rain was dreadful.

You would think I would be worse these days now I haven’t been on a motorcycle for over ten years, but the increase of car use, combined with the intrinsic failings of where I now live: an old market town unable to cope with more than half-a-dozen cars at a time, means I tend to eschew driving places locally.

Back to my trip to the post office.

On the way there I spied a car parked on the road into the housing estate. Clearly its owner was perturbed by the falling rain to such a degree that they felt an urgent need to park as close as possible to the house they were visiting, even if that meant parking on the exit to a blind bend into the estate. My thoughts as I passed the vehicle were along the lines of, Oh dear me, what a pitifully poor place to park, or something like that.

Coming back home the car was still there, but with a minor modification. The debris next to the damaged rear quarter matched the broken tail lights and featured bits from whatever had nudged it, but the broken glass back from the stupidly parked car mystified me until I spoke to a chap walking a dog. He told me he had earlier witnessed a car come around the corner and brake sharply as a small delivery van was driving out of the estate. A second car following the first hadn’t expected it to stop on the bend and the second driver hadn’t managed to avoid a collision. Said prang pushed the first car into the ignorantly parked car.

You would think that if people park inconsiderately then if down to their laziness it might be because they are selfish. However, were that the case then maybe they’d have thought more about the welfare of their own vehicle as opposed to that of others, and therefore wouldn’t have placed their pride and joy in the path of possible damage.

Or might they have once ridden a motorcycle and become morbidly averse to the rain?

   
  Aftermath
Saturday 14 December, 2019

A couple of days ago there was a General Election in the UK. I doubt anyone missed it. Talk before it was all Brexit. Leading up to it was all about whether the result would reflect opinion on Brexit rather than anything else.

Was it a good result? Well, that depends on what you value.

The 2015 General Election saw the Tories win enough seats to form a proper majority government with 330 of them on the back of 36.9% of the popular vote. Interestingly, that majority government gained just 25% of the votes available and it ought to be enough to make anyone smile when the winners announced they had received a Mandate from the People, with just 25% of the People having voted for them...

In 2017, the then Tory leader managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by winning 13 fewer seats than her predecessor two years earlier. The turnout was greater, and she secured 42.4% of the popular vote – a 5.5% increase – but managed to realise 13 fewer seats.

Then came the exciting event a couple of days back. The latest leader of the Tories saw the party’s popular vote rise a fraction to 43.6% but that increase of 1.2% equated to an extra 48 seats over that won in 2017!

Meanwhile the LibDems, as the fourth biggest party standing in the 2019 General Election experienced the largest increase of that four – and increase of the popular vote of 4.2% – and ended up with one less seat than the 2017 General Election.

Was it a good result? Well, that depends on whether you think the present electoral system actually reflects what the Public (you) is thinking or supporting...

   
  Facebook, A Leaving Statement
Wednesday 11 December, 2019

Some of the people I know on Facebook may be aware I was first introduced to it as a tool to confirm IDs during the course of my work in a security role. As a consequence I didn’t hold it in high regard with respect to personal use. However, the course of my life changed and I found myself in a community which positively begged me to maintain an account so as to stay part of the events which surrounded my then employment.

As my life and circumstances changed, so has my dependence upon access to Facebook. For a while I have retained an account for increasingly irrelevant reasons. However, in keeping with my IT background, I have always been incensed by seeing inaccurate information being peddled about, quoted, Shared and promoted electronically. Some of the time it is malicious, but in the main it is innocent and bereft of fact-checking and I find myself always having to fight the urge to correct the Posts, Comments or Replies.

Believe me when I say THAT is hard work.

While I have been in IT, and related employment, I have been aware of how misinformation has been part of the Internet. Social media provided it with a platform of perfection to which the Internet could only aspire.

For a time I have considered withdrawing from Facebook and all forms of social media. During the farce that has been Brexit I watched as people trumpeted ‘facts’ that were nothing but utter dross, on both sides, that wouldn’t have seen the light of day has someone taken 30 seconds to check what they were promoting.

While Posting stuff doesn’t adversely affect my writing (it keeps my fingers dancing over the keyboard), I find the time lost looking things up, and the pain of having to dredge up the truth and corrections (even if I manage to resist the urge to correct/refute them online) a great drain on my time and resources. So even just maintaining a ‘watching brief’ would cause me angst as I read stuff that is just plain wrong.

Opinion I can take. It can be identical to mine, or diametrically or radically opposing views. I’m good with that, but lies dressed up as facts just do my head in. Especially when I see them repeated by people I know who are unaware that while the thrust of what they are Sharing may be correct or valid, the underlying information or data is just made-up to support that opinion.

I have been wavering. However, the run up to the UK General Election has been peppered with lies upon lies, many outrageous in the extreme, and most of the time they have been repeated and promoted by people I know because they either didn’t take the time to check, or if they did check, they hit unlucky and checked a source that was merely repeating the original lie. There is no point in my quoting examples as I have no desire to enter into discussion over the veracity or otherwise of each point.

So I’m off.

That said, I have no desire to lose touch with those I know, so I’m not going to terminate my account, yet. I will be ‘doing the rounds’ and sending Private Messages asking whether the recipient wishes to exchange email addresses. Email used to be my main communication method and it still would be if Facebook wasn’t such a strong fall-back for many with regards to communications in the Modern Age.

   
  Mirrors
Tuesday 10 December, 2019

Anyone remember what was termed mirror writing as a kid? Leonardo da Vinci wrote most of his personal notes in mirror writing so as to obfuscate his observations in progress lest he be usurped by a rival thinker. We see examples in our adult lives when an ambulance comes up behind us with its siren blaring. The word ambulance is emblazoned across its bonnet in reverse so it can be read in your rearview mirror.

(What do you mean, you never use it?)

Mirror writing, or anything with a mirror quality, is usually the reversal of what exists before the mirror.

We have a General Election coming up. I think this one deserves a name other than the 2019 General Election. I propose calling it the Mirror General Election of 2019.

Why? Well – and please forgive me if I am mistaken – but usually one will vote for who it is believed will offer things wanted by the voter. To a degree, all promises and pledges are to be taken with a dollop of salt. However, this time around, things seem to have shifted significantly along the Salt Continuum.

For many it seems to no longer be a matter of merely voting for what one wishes but for who is the least distrusted. They all lie, it is claimed, and it has been for a very long time. Usually the lies are discounted (there’s that use of salt), but when many (Most? All?) of the Big Players resort to lies about the opposition to the degree that they appear to be masking their own outrageous behaviour and policies, then it strikes me that we have entered the Mirror World where everything is in reverse.

If one looks into the life of Leonardo da Vinci then it becomes clear that he was an odd character. That he was a genius is clear to many. He was an oddball though. However, it is looking increasingly likely that if he were alive today he’d be a better use of a vote...

   
  Walking and Talking
Sunday 8 December, 2019

Out on a trek to the local post office took me down a straight residential road. Ahead of me, about halfway along to the end, a woman was pushing a baby buggy. She was walking quite slowly and I figured that I’d catch up with her before she reached the end. So slow was her pace I wondered whether I was going to be hit by an alcoholic haze when I caught and passed her.

Watching her as I got nearer her veering from grass verges to front garden lawns had me think I might be right about the alcohol. In fact, so erratic was her passage along the footpath, I wondered how I was going to get past her when the moment arrived.

As I closed in upon her I noticed that she was just using the one hand to propel the buggy. Having just the one hand on the handlebar across the top meant she was continually having to correct the direction of the small-wheeled vehicle as it followed the dips and irregularities of the pathway. With just one hand to both push and steer meant it took her back and forth across the way with the grass on either side seeming to act like those rumble strips found along major roads and junctions. Course corrections were abrupt and sparked by the transgressions from the smooth surface to the rough green borders on each side.

For a moment I felt a pang of guilt as it crossed my mind that perhaps she only had the one arm and she was doing the best she could manage. However, it passed when I heard her talking and realised her other hand was tucked into her hair by her ear as she jabbered into a mobile phone.

As I approached I chose a side on which to pass. Unfortunately she chose that precise moment to make a mid-course correction without prompting from any vegetation. We nearly collided. The child never noticed but the buggy driver did; first letting whoever was on the other end of her conversation know she was speaking to someone before apologising to me for nearly taking me out via my ankles.

I hope she doesn’t drive a car.

   
  Success!
Friday 6 December, 2019

Sometimes success means different things to different people. I’m pretty sure that the success I have experienced this morning is going to have some people shaking their heads.

Last week I discovered that a virtualisation package I once used many years back when it was available to me in an IT environment and quite costly, has been released as a free-to-individual application.

And?

Well, having discovered that a tool I once used has become available to me at no cost, as opposed to more than £400, I thought I’d give it a try. Goodness, it is so much better than I remember, and it is far superior to the application I have been using up until now.

The real test was going to be the replication of functions I perform using the current tool. This morning I configured a pair of virtual machines so they were capable of doing everything I needed. This they managed, and so much better. For instance: this Blog of Zakspade entry was written and uploaded via one of the machines created and the fact you are reading it means that everything worked as intended.

That’s what I call success, but I’m willing to accept that others might see things differently...

   
  Blocked!
Wednesday 4 December, 2019

My introduction to the world of Facebook was through working in an IT security role. I found it a useful tool to help confirm the identities of users on a particular Internet connection, along with being able to pinpoint specific content so as to further identify who was using any particular network session.

One might think I would swear off Facebook after seeing its impact, but no, I did not. For personal reasons I maintained a personal account just so as to be available to a particular person for a short period afterwards, but then it faded from my life. Then a career and life change took me to a new town and into a school environment. I found myself within a community of parents of the kids at the school, and people I came into contact with where I was now living. Many were avid users of Facebook and I found myself being drawn back so as to maintain a view of events amongst those who were now playing a major part in my life.

And so I embraced Facebook.

Not 100%, you understand. I use my real name but that is the only personal data attached to that account. My avatar is something I once took a photograph of at an airshow. The date-of-birth I supplied makes me 119 years old. And I’m not Welsh, American, French, or Chinese as they are details I vary every once and a while. If everyone on Facebook falsified the data they supply Facebook then it couldn’t be sold on or ‘accidently’ leaked. But then, not everyone has used Facebook as a tool in investigations that cost people their jobs and livelihoods and, on occasions, led to police prosecutions.

These days I dip in and out of various Groups on Facebook. Some are quite funny. Others are great sources of information or opinion. Many, if not most, are entertaining. I can usually ignore bad language although in some groups where some Members are known to me face-to-face it can be a little grating. However, it is when someone misses the point of a Group’s existence and launches personal attacks against other Members that I really take umbrage. And when my name is mentioned; I am addressed directly; or referred to, and my intelligence, education, understanding, or general character is attacked, then I pull the plug and take my leave without any theatre or leaving statements.

Why? Well, for the same reason I wouldn’t want to be a Member of a Devil worshipers Group and find myself being flamed for Commenting differently to some within. The biggest pain is being labelled bigot by a bigot, or someone who goes out of their way to head off debate by preloading their Posts with something like: if you disagree with this Post (as I see it in an overly simplified form) then you are one of the idiots responsible for the ills of the world and are a low-life and bottom-feeder.

In one Group, a few of the Members are known to me outside of Facebook. I disagree with many of the Members and I agree with many of them. Some make no sense to me and some are outrageously funny (well, they make me laugh). The Group is generally friendly, entertaining and respectful of all Members. However, amongst its Members is one who joined and at the start they peppered their Posts with expletives. They also took every Comment or Reply as some sort of personal attack and would come back with real personal attacks against whoever had dared to present an alternative perspective.

Complaints were made. Eventually they toned down their language, but not without stating a couple of times that they would be leaving the Group. Unfortunately they reneged on their statement like the best politicians out there and they remained a Member. Gone was the potty-mouth approach and in came Posts that dared anyone to disagree. Anyone foolish enough to see that the overly simple point being made had other facets and Replied accordingly were crudely, robustly and abusively disparaged.

I really don’t want to leave that Group but finally after a Comment I left on a another Member’s Post, the person with the mistaken belief that the Group is a ‘causes Group’ leapt in with their own take on the situation and again came straight out with their charge that stupidity was my greatest asset. Enough was enough, I decided, so I Blocked that person.

Now, one might think that is the end of it, but it goes deeper than that. Threads are at risk of becoming nonsensical should that Blocked Member be part of an exchange. Think of it as hearing someone speaking on their mobile phone: you hear and understand them but have no idea what the other person is saying and so cannot do anything but try and deduce what is being discussed.

A Group in which potential entertaining, thought-provoking, or educational Threads no longer have any meaning is a Group that no longer holds enough value to make it worth me wishing to remain a Member. Unlike the person I eventually Blocked, I have not threatened to leave, nor will I. If I do begin to see worthlessness in Posts through their becoming ‘bitty’ then I will leave, but be assured, I never huff and puff and then not leave.

It’s a pity, because of the Groups I have interacted with down the years since my entanglement in Facebook, that particular Group has been my favourite by a big margin. Still, whatever happens and however it all turns out, I no longer need to concern myself with whether or not today will bring the idiot bigot out in that one person who feels it acceptable to aim their bile at me.

   
  Speakerphone 2
Sunday 1 December, 2019

I wasn’t overly surprised to check my email this morning and see a couple of messages regarding something I had previously posted to my blog. However, I was surprised to see that both referred to the same piece – Speakerphone from yesterday.

A follow-up was considered.

During the day, each time I checked my email, another missive regarding the same piece would appear in my Inbox. By the evening I had receive seven comments, all from different addresses, but all remarking upon the same aspect. So I decided to not wait any longer and here is my follow-up...

On the plus side, she didn’t use a single expletive my daughter doesn’t know.

I believe in never letting my daughter flounder over not knowing something. So she does know an awful lot of swear-words and terms, but that doesn’t mean she uses them or even feels that she wants to use them. If she asks, I tell her. It’s nothing more than that.