Friday, December 14, 2007

Thoughts on shovels and pipes and the joys of home ownership

"You shovel like a champion ... but that doesn't make you a superhero."
--Mystery Men

Well, I beg to differ ....

In case we weren't sure before, winter decided to make its presence rather emphatically known yesterday, and I was treated to my inaugural digging-out-the-car-after-the-plough-has-been-past.

Conflicting thoughts running through my head as I spent over an hour bending my back to the task: "Good thing I don't have a nine o'clock class this morning"; "Why couldn't this happen when I have a nine o'clock class I could cancel?"

Ah well ... next term, I'm sure there will be a number of cancellation opportunities. I suppose I could make a point of getting up an hour earlier, but that doesn't seem likely.

Thought running through my head this morning when I saw that the plough had deposited a fresh load of snow against my car: "Sysiphus had it easy."

Still, I was quite proud of my shovelling, and made a point of taking some before and after pictures.

Further contradictory thoughts running through my head mid-shovelling: "Wow, I really need to get back to the gym." "If this happens frequently, I'll never need to go to the gym again."

And in the category of "Sometimes Stupidity Reaps Unexpected Benefits": When I came outside to take the "after" photos, I accidentally locked myself out of the house. D'oh! But fortunately my neighbour with my spare key was home. My front door has proved difficult of late, not accepting the key when it freezes up; not wishing to stand outside with my hands over the doorknob until it thawed, I let myself in through my back door.

My back door leads into my sun room, which is not well insulated. I opened the door to an odd hissing noise. Then I saw the water pooled on the floor. Then I saw the burst pipe near the floor that was gushing water about a foot up the wall. Then I dissolved in despair and panic.

Thoughts running through my head upon seeing the burst pipe: "Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck."

Locking myself out was actually a stroke of luck ... I'd been planning at that point to leave for the day, and conceivably would not have noticed the burst pipe for hours.

My sunroom has a door in the floor that leads down to my basement/crawlspace, which is also where the shutoff valve is ... which, as I discovered, lacks a knob but is instead a short piece of metal with stripped threading. The water at this point was cascading down in a rather impressive waterfall that I had to duck through several times to get the water shut off.

Interesting mathematical equation: sweat from exertion of shovelling + uninsulated room + cold water + 1.5 hours of heavy shovelling = really really sore back this morning.

I took a picture for posterity's sake, but it unfortunately doesn't show the water well. If you look closely you can see the ripples in the deep puddle at the base of the stairs.

At any rate, I guess you could say it was an eventful day, with several important lessons -- the first one being, keep the heater on in the sun room, however much more I'll be spending on my hydro bill this winter.

The second one is that I should have become a plumber. $160 for five minutes work replacing the pipe. I'm tempted to calculate what my hourly wage worked out to this past semester, but I think it will just make me depressed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Another great thing about CBC One ...

... is that occasionally you flip it on in the car to join it mid-sentence. Such as this evening, when I heard:

" ... a study to ascertain why pregnant women are so difficult to tip over."

I love the human-interest pot-pourri that our national broadcaster treats us to.

Said study, as it turned out, was to come at the end of a program, and I missed it while having dinner with friends. If I may speculate on the study's findings, however: "After lengthy clinical trials, scientists have concluded that weebles wobble, but they don't fall down."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The saga of the backhoe

One of the greatest changes wrought in my daily life in moving from an apartment into my own house has been the banishment of television to the fringes of my day. Instead of putting the television set in the living room downstairs, I put it in the third bedroom upstairs. The upshot of this rather simple shift is that I watch far less television, simply by dint of the fact that it is no longer the center of my principal living space.

In both the two-bedroom condo I rented for my first two years here in St. John's and the one-bedroom apartment I lived in for my last few years in London, I had open-concept kitchens and a living space that centered around the living room. Not being someone fond of silence while making dinner or otherwise puttering around the apartment, the TV tended to be on a lot -- not necessarily something I was focused on or even paying more than passing attention, but still an inescapable presence. It was particularly bad at my condo on LeMarchant here in St. John's, especially after the busier parts of the semester when I'd get home and become one with my couch.

Since moving into the house and banishing the TV to the upstairs, I have replaced the drone of the tube with CBC Radio One ... and let me tell you, I don't think I have had more entertainment from any medium than when I have taken days to work at home and followed the various building news stories from across Newfoundland -- the most recent of which was the saga of the ATM robbery that recently occurred just outside St. John's by Paddy's Pond, in which the entire machine was lifted and carted off.

The hourly news updates kept me posted as the day went on, from the initial report of the missing ATM as I had my morning coffee, to speculations an hour later on how an ATM could be stolen, with various theories being advanced. One report noted that there had been a backhoe stolen somewhere on Kenmount Road ... could there be a connection? And then! Some time just before lunch, it was reported that a backhoe had been discovered partially submerged in the Manuels River. The RNC (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary) acknowledged that it might be the backhoe stolen from Kenmount Road, and might well also be the tool used to steal the ATM ... but the spokesman demurred any further speculation, stating firmly that at the present moment, there was no solid evidence to connect the abandoned backhoe to either theft.

See, this is why we need a CSI: Newfoundland. I suggest Rick Mercer in the Gil Grissom role, with Mary Walsh as his Number Two and Shaun Majumder as the geeky put-upon lab tech. But only if it could air on CBC Radio One.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


We had our first messy winter day yesterday ... not a massive dump of snow, but still enough to remind me of a key lesson of the Newfoundland winter: always have whatever work you need to be doing on you.

I woke up yesterday to a white neighbourhood and the sound of the wind blowing the snow sideways. It would have been a perfect day to work at home, to make coffee and camp out at the dining room table with my ongoing stack of marking ... except that I'd left that in the office. Ack. So I slogged up to campus, but quickly turned around again when all I could see was white out my office window. I have learned from hard experience that when visibility goes down to zero, it is best to vacate the office before the snow accumulates to levels best negotiated by tracked vehicles. Fortunately, it did not come to that -- the weather was clearing by the time I got home -- but it was pleasant to spend the rest of the day at the dining room table with tea and comfort food to take the edge off the grading process.

I should add that we got off easy in St. John's. The Bonavista Penninsula got absolutely creamed by a blizzard that knocked out electricity, and kept it out for over twenty-four hours -- and in some places, it's still not up and running. So I don't think I'll complain (much) about the few inches of snow I shovelled off my walk this morning.