Breaking Cover

Well, it’s been a bit hasn’t it oh internet peeps. Not that I’ve been not on the internet, I’ve just been tired. So very fucking tired. I am heartily sick of being demonized for existing. I’m tired of not talking about it at work, at least most of the time.

But then I’m out-but-not and that’s tiring and tedious in and of itself. But feh.

I’m increasingly despairing of any hope of the US avoiding becoming a fascist dictatorship. I will be frankly stunned if the Democrats don’t lose their tiny majority in the midterms, then spend the next two years whining about how they can’t do anything because they don’t have a majority. While it’s true that they can’t, and that the republicans are deeply obstructionist, their complete failure to deal with the folks allegedly in their own camp has put paid to any hope of them not being routed this election time.

At least, that’s my non-pol-sci opinion. From what I’m seeing people are uninspired to vote – hell, I’m uninspired to vote for them and I’m super into elections and democracy – and trying to inspire people to vote for them, despite the rapid pyre of womens, people of colour and queer folks rights in republican states, and championed by republicans – it’s trying to persuade them to vote against something, rather than to vote for something. And that’s way harder.

I guess the tiny positive is sometimes I can drag that dismal mood into working on the house.

I spent yesterday and today cleaning the tile adhesive off the tiles in the bathroom, which we finished putting up a couple of weeks back. Then this afternoon I started work on the grouting…

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I’m really pleased with how it’s coming together. It’s been a complete pain in the arse, and a seemingly endless fight, but we’re finally approaching the home stretch, I think. I’m particularly pleased with how fancy the alcove is looking:

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Those basalt mosaic tiles were a complete f’kin nightmare to put up, but maybe they’re worth it. It does look pretty nifty.

Other house related news, we put up a greenhouse. It’s tiny and crappy, but it’s up. Hopefully we can get our plants in it. This spring has been astonishingly wet, even by Washington standards. It’s rained and rained and rained. As a result everything, plant wise, is definitely very behind. We’ve got seedlings in the house that need to be hardened out somewhat and then put in the greenhouse… but finding the right weather for that is proving difficult.

In other, other news, I have started running. I actually started back on March 16th, and then on Day 51 I moved the thread onto Mastodon, but also became way more erratic about posting things. It’s Day 65 today. And that means every single day for the past 65 days I’ve done core muscles exercises and run. Currently I’m running 1km, I keep thinking about increasing it to maybe 1.5km, but I can *just* fit a 1km run in before going to hospital-work.

I’d really like it if I lost some of my…unsatisfactory waistline… I’d like to have core muscles that were more than ornamental, but of course, building muscle without T is kinda hard. Not that I want any T. Christ no. But still, it’s frustrating that I can do this – like when I was cycling – and still not seem to build any muscle, or particularly lose fat. I’m eating way less, and eating less fatty stuff, and I have seen some of the extra weight I put on through the pandemic – and in all honesty – through too many bakery visits while building the house. But… it’s frustrating.

I’ve also been fucking around with…

…makeup. No, seriously.

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It’s been a long time since I did anything with makeup, and it’s kinda fun to futz around with it. I’ve been using it in my videos for Transport Evolved, and I… I’m enjoying it. I think that when I was with my abusive ex, she really was very negative about makeup, which is interesting because she did wear it sometimes. But then, hey, she was never terribly good at not being wildly hypocritical. Anyway, that combined with nervousness and ineptitude put me off. And the fact that I don’t think anyone should *have* to wear it.

But, at the moment I’m enjoying fucking around with it, so I am.

I’ve also continued to play around with making jewelry. I mean, it’s me, so these fascinations wax and wane, but I’m really enjoying it at the moment. I want to get good enough that I can maybe sell them as a hobby… because people keep asking where they can buy my earings from.

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So, in general, life continues, but I’ve no idea where we’ll be in a few years time because staying here feels increasingly unsafe. Like, WA, to some extent might be protected, although people are pissed off with inflation and taxation, and I can see them getting irritated enough, and people being ambivalent enough, that it’s not as safe as it feels sometimes. And it only feels safe in Oly. I sure as shit don’t feel wonderfully safe in between Oly and Portland. Out in the boonies where the Trump signs still fly.

I hate Washington Nazis.

I hate all Nazis, frankly. Fuck ’em. Well, punch ’em. That’s what you do with Nazis. Don’t debate them, they lie.

Being Away on Lopez

Day 1 (not counting driving up here)

It’s been a really lovely day. The sun’s shone, the light has been really stunning. It’s been a really wonderful introduction to Lopez Island.

The pandemic has made holidays a bit fraught, the concept of going somewhere – anywhere – away from home brings with it ideas about whether we should be doing that, can we do that safely, is it fair on the people in the area we’re going to?

But with the evidence about vaccination, with our general carefulness, it felt reasonable to take the punt on actually getting away. Initially we looked at Canada – hoping to scoot up to one of the islands that form part of the group that are part US – San Juan, and part Canadian. We thought we’d be hopping off the coast of Vancouver to an island.

But the pandemic had other ideas, and our five day vacation would require a plan for a 14 day quarantine stay – at the whim of a border guard. Being vaccinated we would most likely be exempt from that requirement, but we weren’t willing to take a punt on the border guard not having a good day and declaring that we needed to hide out for fourteen days when we’d both just booked off five. So we cancelled our rental and remade plans.

Disappointment at the time has become delight at being here. The century old farmhouse – is what looks like it was once a foursquare (apparently, though, its construction is peculiar to the island and is “frameless”, with a hip roof – both thing that one particular builder seems to have done). Despite a first – very cold – night, the heater seems to have manged to get the temperature up to something reasonable today, especially with the addition of the log stove in the lounge. Kathryn posited that maybe they didn’t have anyone staying just before us, so the house had got cold…

…which seems like a pretty reasonable thought. But it was bloody cold yesterday – and this morning.

Today I did my run – I’m on day 16 of running and core muscles exercises. Hell if I know whether it might finally stick after fortysome years of intermittently trying. But I’m working at it. Then after breakfast and a fairly relaxed morning we went to find Lopez Hill. The leaflet isn’t… entirely clear about where the parking is for the walk. Or it is, but the design of the leaflet kind of obscures that. So… we did some impromptu off-roading. Well, somewhat.

The leaflet says it’s down an unmaintained country road. And we chose the wrong unmaintained country road. Having got to a point where I looked at it and thought that we would struggle to get our two-wheel drive faux SUV over the large rock in the road, we turned around and made our way out and then realized that it was the correct road – but the wrong end of it. Having navigated around to the other end we made our way into the nature reserve and meandered around through some wonderfully peaceful woodland.

A stop for lunch at Vortex, and coffee at Isabelle’s Espresso, and then we mosied down the northernmost spit – another Friends of Lopez park – where we were met by the remnants of many of the reef-net fishing boats. The sea was wonderfully peaceful and clear… and just… Getting some time to just be quiet and listen to the world is exactly what I needed right now.

We spent some time absorbing the sounds of the sea washing up against the beach, and some more time poking around the slowly disintegrating remnants of the reef-net fishing boats which are pulled up on the shore and more and more becoming part of the shore.

Finally, and unsurprisingly, we headed to the bookshop ‘on the way’ home. The bookshop here is astonishingly well stocked for such a tiny island, and we walked away with… more books than perhaps we expected. Ah well, we can always build more shelves.

Day 2

We pretty much always attempt to get at least one day away from the car. Not that I mind driving, I actually like driving, it can be fun and can give me space and time to think. But when we’re away, particularly on a trip like this that’s got a fairly long (by British standards) trip to get here (add in that the ferry across to Lopez Island, this being COVID times we just stayed in the car). Side thought: this is going to be a pretty well documented experience of pandemic times. And human’s stupidity around pandemics.

Anyhow, so Day two was assigned the avoid driving day. We planned ahead the previous day making sure to grab stuff for lunch and dinner, and stuff for the day after. We, as usual, had a fairly relaxed holiday morning, munching on granola from home and local greek yoghurt – which incidentally was much better than the local greek yoghurt we get in Oly. We need to persuade our local coop to stock it because it’s actually greek like in its creamyness, unlike the stuff we can get normally which is greekish in terms of flavour, but the texture is entirely wrong.

We started off following the directions given by the house’s owner, which indicated a fairly simple walk to Chadwick Hill (which was apparently formerly known as Moar’s Mountain (or something like that – I forget, we saw the name at the Museum the next day but I forgot to write it down. It was previously named after the woman who lived at the base of the cliff face, in what was once a settlement there, but which has now pretty much disappeared. The only evidence we saw was the remnants of a car sticking up from the ground).

Anyhow, that walk didn’t entirely go as planned, in so far as the map indicated one fairly clear trail through the woods up to the highest point, at which we were promised views across to Mount Baker. Unfortunately (and I say unfortunately, it was a very pleasant walk all the same), it turned out that the woodland we were walking through contained many, many trails. None of which were signposted.

And it’s a small island so we were happy meandering and just vaguely heading in the direction that we thought we should… only… we emerged about an hour and a half later on the same path that we’d used to come in to the woodland. Having accepted the damning endightment of our navigational abilities, we chose instead to continue our walk down to Watmaugh Bay. Knowing that the weather was going to get less good as the evening wore on, we pootled onwards, spending some time watching the sea and the birds of prey that are so common here.

Eventually hunger and tired feet got the better of us and we headed back to cuddle up avoiding the weather and enjoying a toasty warm fire. I even broke out my somewhat rusty wood-chopping skills to split some (already part split) logs. The first day’s fire had been a bit of a failure because the last occupants didn’t bring in any kindling. I’d hoped, since the wood was clearly very dry, that we might be able to get the fire going anyway, but it didn’t work. It turned out that the owners of the house keep kindling in the woodshed (it’s in the instructions, obviously), and having pulled a few bits in the fire lit really easily.

A few rounds of Haggis and Hive as the weather became somewhat inclement, and lots of cuddling up on the sofa.

Day 3

Our day three plan took us out for more walking around the western side of the island, after a bit of time exploring the corporate centre ;)

We wanted to grab some more of the Lopex island wine that we’d bought the first day – a bottle to take home and some as a gift. While we could have headed up to the winery (which is an actual grow their own grapes kind of winery – a lot of the north-western ones are really making wine from grapes grown in the East of the WA), it’s…COVID time. So we didn’t really want to go hang out tasting wines somewhere. Instead we just headed to a local store and grabbed some, the other plan being to grab some of the pasta we’d bought the first day (which was really yummy).

Unfortuately, this second grocery didn’t carry the pasta (local-goods.com) but we grabbed the wine. We also treated ourselves to…treats. Holly B’s bakery providing some lovely Almond Butterhorns, as well as croissants for our Day 4 breakfast. We also checked out the “mall” – which is the local dump’s take-it-or-leave-it section. Separating out reausable things for local folks to grab rather than sending them to landfill.

Unsurprisingly we came away with…books. I nearly grabbed a network switch, but annoyingly couldn’t find the power supply. And while I could just buy a power supply from what I can find the cost of a power supply is essentially the same as the cost of a cheap switch these days. Since both the one I have at home (which has a British power supply) and this one were both cheap switches, it seemed a little pointless.

It was interesting to have a nose around tho’

We also saw a shop where they make really beautiful handmade knives from a variety of woods – downed madronas or woods sent from their friends around the world. We’re actually tempted to get a replacement for our most used kitchen knife which is, disappointingly a not-quite-the-cheapest ikea 365 knife. The handle on that has been disintegrating for years, and being as it was sharpened using the modern technique, not the old school two sharpened edges coming to a point (I recall reading about the fancy modern sharpening shape which doesn’t hone to sharpness so easily in a home sharpening doohicky), so the idea of replacing it with a really nice knife is quite appealing.

Then we took ourselves out to Shark Reef Park (a mile long walk out to a beautiful view of the ocean). Perching on the rocks at the end of the walk we watched seals ungainly ascent of the reef a little ways out through binoculars. Incredibly, Kathryn remembered to bring binoculars and remembered to bring them on the walk. A previously unheard of level of binocular remembering. I’d take credit, but I had nothing to do with it.

Shark Reef Park, incidentally, is entertainingly named because you can’t actually see Shark Reef from it, the view is blocked by another reef…

After that we meandered down to what was, I think, my favourite walk of the holiday. Iceberg Point. The views were just wonderful, and the sounds of the sea crashing against the rocks was soothing. We meandered out along the wooded inland path, getting to see rare flowers that grow only in these specific environments – a wild orchid – called a Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa) and a flower called a Satin Flower (Olsyeum Douglasii). Up on the coast is a marker for a 1908 treaty with Canada regarding the location of the border – it’s indicates where the country border changes direction out in the sea…

The little white obelisk kind of reminded me of the OS markings up in the mountains in the lakes.

Anyway, it was just a peaceful and delightful day.

After some solid walking we headed to the village to get some fud – our first and second plans were foiled by COVID making one place which looked full but might have had space…being quite full. A lot of people were eating in a fairly confined outdoor space. A lot.

The second place we hoped had outdoor seating, which it does, but it wasn’t open at this point in the year…and we weren’t up for eating indoors.

So instead we had pizza…only we didn’t, because they had run out of dough. But instead they had a polenta bake with whatever pizza toppings we wanted. This turned out to be very nice, and the last remannts we had as breakfast along with our croissants the next day…

Day 4

The final morning was spent cleaning up the house. The requirements were incredibly minimal but we wiped things down anyway, and I put together a fire so the next occupants can just light it. We woke to a weather warning – starting at midday. Our ferry’s planned sailing being 12:45 (although we’re only just on it now at 12:50, so I’m guessing the choppy waters and higher than normal winds have delayed things a little.

We took a quick turn around a gallery before heading over, doing our usual art buying (don’t we sound fancy – but it’s pretty common for us to find something that we love from a holiday and bring it back, be it a painting or a bowl). This time it was a very cute painting of a little group of sheep. We might also get a knife made – there’s a place on Lopez island called Skarpari where they make some truly beautiful kitchen knives.

And our kitchen knives are mainly garbage – as I mentioned back in Day 3. So that would probably also count as art.

Photos are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/49965961@N00/albums/72177720297915660

Tiling gods

We have continued work on the bathroom… it’s slow because (wo)man handling the tiles is a bit of a nightmare, and so it only really happens at the weekend. We have, however, nearly finished one of the walls – it’s just got a couple of irritating needing-cutting tiles to do right up at the top.

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The south wall has passed the half way mark, too, which is cool. We should be able to get that done in another day or two.

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I also spent a full day a couple of weeks ago working on the mosaic tile that finished off the bathroom shelf and around the lightswitch:

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All in all I’m really pleased with how it’s coming together… it’s a bit of a slog, but I think it’s going to be a really, really nice bathroom when it’s done. Small, but very cool. The new bidet has arrived, so that needs to go in too.

But after this there’s grouting, sealing, installing the shower and the sink, and eventually some trim.

But it’s a hell of a lot closer.

Run baby run.

It’s been tough recently. I mean, I’m not talking about things outside the US – that’s been tough, too. Or climate change (which is both inside/outside the US) which is just…intense. But just here. And in the UK, too, I suppose.

I’ve been fighting to just be me in the world, I guess, since I was four. That’s the first time I expressed that my gender differed from my sex assigned at birth to my family. This year, that’ll be forty years of fighting just to exist. And as hateful bigots in the Republican party have decided that an onslaught on women, queer, brown and trans folks’ rights is the way to ensure their ‘base’ is sufficiently energized [read: filled with hateful bile] to come out and vote for them [it’s hard to persuade them to vote for the R’s on their actual main policy of enriching themselves at the expense of the poor and middle class], I’ve been feeling… tired.

Exhausted more like. Not beaten. Because I will never, ever give up my right to be me in the world. But I’ve been feeling more trans than I sometimes do. A lot of the time it kinda fades into the background. Like the fact I have a fatty liver, or that I’m at high risk for colon cancer. Like the fact my hair’s going grey, or that my knee’s a bit knackered from the bike accident. It’s part of the fabric of day-today-being-me, but not constantly at the forefront. In fact, until the last few years it was often not even in my head at all for days at a time.

But now… Right now? It can’t slip into the background. The news is shouting about how trans folks are some giant conspiracy (to what? have a nice cup of tea and a sit on the sofa? That’s my main agenda); about how trans kids should be tortured and pushed to suicide; about how we shouldn’t have healthcare or exist outside our own houses. Not that we should be allowed to exist there – because when you’re a kid apparently you’re too young to make a decision until you’ve experienced puberty. Then once you’ve experienced the pain of the wrong damn puberty then you’re apparently too [insert sex here] to transition.

Did I say fuck these people? Because fuck these people. Fuck them. I hope they rot.

I know how hopeless, how lost, how betrayed by my body I felt. It’s taken me forty years to get to a point where I can feel invested enough in this flesh sack to drag it out for regular exercise. And that only happened five fucking days ago.

I did manage – back in Bristol – to negotiate cycling to work. That was the best I’ve felt about my body before. And maybe if I’d continued that then I would have got to this point sooner – because I actually felt better about myself when I was kinda forced-exercising. But actually to do more than the bare minimum maintenance? That’s taken years of intermittent yoga at home, a lot of love and care from my wife, and a lot of working through shit in my head.

Ironically, I think that this burst of activity might in a way be a fuck you to the legislators who want me to disappear and die. Just that attitude from them makes me want to live as long as possible. Just to spite the small minded turds.

But yeah, it’s hard to feel positive. I’ve heard this music before.

Britain’s legislative landscape is so atrocious that NZ granted a trans woman asylum. That’s the work of the evangelical funded TERFs coming to fruition. It doesn’t make trans folks go away — excepting that some trans kids will kill themselves. A tragic loss that some TERFs seem happy to gloat over. Mainly it just makes life worse for trans folks, which is a shit thing to crow over.

When I stopped running TGY I really, really thought that we were close to the UK becoming an accepting, equitable place for queer folks. I didn’t think we were there, but we didn’t seem as many millions of miles away as we were when I joined the group. Instead, the UK’s slid backwards, and the evangelical right have learned from those first forays into ruining peoples lives and driving folks to death, and decided to replay the record on fresh instruments in the US.

As you have probably gathered, I’m feeling pretty negative about it.

But the running every day? That’s been nice.

Logan's run clip subtitled "I hate outside!"

…at least, sometimes.

Puja for Mymble

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Mymble wasn’t well for about a week. We noticed she didn’t seem her normal self – she was always first up and out of the coop – or if not there was an argument at the coop door with her and Astrid fighting for the exit. But Tuesday and Wednesday she was slower to come out. Then she had some watery droppings on Thursday. And on Friday she seemed to not be eating much and seemed very lethargic.

Concerned for her – and the rest of our tiny flock – we got her inside on Sunday, when I was off, and she spent Sunday through Tuesday indoors. She’d always seemed quite interested in “indoors”, occasionally trying to follow us through the door… she was just a friendly and curious chicken.

When we cleaned the coop she’d pop up behind us straining her neck to see what we were doing, and sometimes – somewhat inconveniently – she’d fly up and perch right in the way on the removable board that stops the shavings escaping. Or hop up on their sleep perch right in the way of us trying to remove the droppings.

She was no doubt the absolute head of the flock. Top of the pecking order, which she enforced with no lack of vigor. Threats to her leadership weren’t tolerated at all. But unlike the others she was sometimes easy to catch – dropping to a submissive pose and letting us scoop her up. Only if she was in the mood, though.

Other times she’d not be in the mood and she’d lead the other chickens and us on a merry chase to try and catch her.

She’d bask on her side in the sun – letting the rays warm her wings.

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We tried to help her these last few days. We had an appointment this morning at the vet’s, the earliest we could get her in to any local vet. We didn’t think, weak as she clearly was, that we’d make it to the vets up in Seattle that have emergency appointments. Last time we took her anywhere – which was when we got her from just a few streets away, the entire journey was angst and flapping and annoyance.

Because none of them had ever really been sick before we’d never got any of the chooks registered with a vet, so emergency appointments are apparently not a thing for unregistered-with-vet-animals.

So we gave her electrolites and water, and kept her warmer inside. She stopped eating on Monday. On Tuesday all she took in, as far as I can tell, was the water that I syringe-dropped into her beak. I gave her some strokes, which she didn’t seem to mind, and talked to her some.

And we woke this morning to find she’d passed. We’ll hopefully get answers from an autopsy, but the vet suggested the constellation of symptoms could well signify a cancer. Apparently that’s actually pretty common even in relatively young chickens.

I hope that she didn’t suffer too much those last few days and hours.

On her final journey with us – I followed my mum’s suggestion and performed a puja. I’ve never done a puja for a chicken before.


Aniccā vata saṅkhārā,
uppādavayadhammino.
Uppajjitvā nirujjhanti
tesaṃ vupasamo sukho

Impermanent alas are formations,
subject to rise and fall.
Having arisen, they cease;
their subsiding is bliss.

It’s not for me. It’s for Mymble’s next birth. But all the same I found it very comforting.

Safe flights mymble, and I hope you get all the corn you desire.

Flushing, WA.

This toilet installation has been *rough*. Well, maybe not that rough. It’s been tough going though.

So I made a list, checked it twice, looked at the bits in the bags that came with the loo and then ordered a bunch of bits. Obviously, because I’m a twonk, and also because toilets here are different to the UK, and also because the bag *looked* like it had the screws in that hold the toilet to the flange – but in fact, they’re just two random screws which aren’t mentioned anywhere in the instructions…I didn’t manage to get all the bits.

Anyhow, during the past week I took up the broken tile, scraped back the tile adhesive, and got the new tile down and lined up pretty well. In fact, you can’t really tell that there was a tile related disaster there. That did involve getting a special tool for scraping tile adhesive. Annoyingly, I couldn’t find anyone who had the SDS hammer attachment in stock, so I had to do it by hand.

A task that was not an enormous amount of fun.

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Still, I suppose it was deserved.

Since then I fitted the flange-raiser to bring the toilet up to the level of the tiled floor. I’m not terrribly fond of it, but it’s done. And I also grouted the floor which, at the end of all this pain, looks pretty good.

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And with that done I could start on plumbing in the outlets for the toilet.

Of course, things at this point started to go a little sideways. The holes we made lined up well enough that I could remove the plugs – but not well enough to be able to attach the little spur pipes that bring the water out of the wall. That led to quite a lot of time with the drill and the diamond cutting bits to make the holes larger and better aligned.

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Eventually I got there, but it wasn’t a quick task. Then, having done that I had to wait for the bits I’d ordered to get picked for kerbside pickup. I ordered them in the morning, thinking they’d be there in the afternoon, but the 2 hour order window took overnight and then I was at work the next day.

Soooo. Saturday morning we ran to BOB and picked up the parts, then, when we got them home I realised I’d ordered compression joints instead of threaded joints (wishful thinking on my part), so I had to go back to the store to change them. I took a few minutes to think beforehand whether there were any other bits I might need and then headed off, did a very quick run to grab the bits I needed (which annoyingly don’t come in a bulk pack unlike the compression ones), and ran back.

Fitting them was the pain and torment I’ve come to expect from US threaded joints. No matter what I do, or what sealing compound I use, or how much PTFE tape I throw on, it seems to be an absolute mare to get them to seal. After several failed efforts, I think it was fourth time lucky on the cold (only second or third on the hot, funnily enough) and we left them overnight for me to check in the morning – this morning.

And I believe success was had (fingers crossed / touch wood*). So we could move on to fitting the toilet, which just needed to have the wax ring applied, and then be positioned on the flange and sealed…. now where are those bolts to hold it to the flange?

…so another trip to BOB, and I returned with better quality caulk (because the stuff we have in is for draft proofing the studio), bolts and some more masking tape – because you can never have too much masking tape.

And then we finally, finally, got the toilet on. At which point we found that the bit in the review which said it was extremely difficult to tighten the bolts was, in fact, not lying.

It was fucking evil.

The little hole through which you get to put your fingers to position the bolt on the nut is juuuust too small.

We also discovered that the bidet I’d bought from BOB won’t fit – annoyingly we discovered this after installing it – which makes it impossible to return – so we’ve ordered the same super cheap one we got from China last time. Hopefully this one will be as good as the first one. We also discovered that the toilet-water feed pipe was too short. It’s only about half an inch short, so it’s reasonable I thought it’d fit. Again, we realised that it definitely wouldn’t fit after installing it. I’d be more annoyed at myself but thanks to COVID stock shenanigans it’s literally the only length BOB had in stock. So meh.

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Anyhow, despite some optimism earlier today, the toilet does, in fact, sit about 1/8″ too close to the wall to fit a tile behind it, so we’ll have to cut the tiles around it, which is quite annoying. But we didn’t expect to have tiles there, so…

Still. We also made some upward progress on the tiling:

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Including the finicky bit around the sink drain.

It is gradually starting to look quite a lot like a bathroom.


Oh, and in other eggsiting news, it seems that all three of our chooks are off their winter break amd laying again :)


* Touch a small deciduous forest.

In which past Kate inadequately fixes a suspected problem and future Kate gets to actually fix it.

So. Large format tiles. Genius idea. If we get large format tiles it’ll probably help cover the unevenness of the walls and it’ll go quicker, I thought.

Unfortunately, we decided that the tiles we liked are nearly 6 foot long and nearly a foot wide. Turns out they’re “quite difficult to handle”. But last weekend (well, MLK day), Kathryn and I spent a chunk of time carefully cutting the tiles to length for the bathroom floor. That done, midweek, I laid them.

Now, these are essentially 4 foot long in their longest segments, buuut, the bathroom floor is small and the shower basin is tiled already. So, it’s a bit of a tricky job all round getting them in. And one of those tiles, the last but one, I wasn’t wholly happy I’d managed to get well adhered all the way across the back. I’d already lifted and relaid it because I wasn’t convinced the first time, and the second time I was happier – but not truly happy. If i’d’ve been truly happy I probably wouldn’t have shoved some more adhesive under the back edge of the tile.

But, I thought, it’s probably good enough because it’s just our bathroom so it’s only going to have us going in and out. And it’s right in the corner of the door where we probably won’t stand that much.

Which may have been true. But it still, probably, would have been better for me to have a third stab at getting it well adhered.

Still, it all looked nice:

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And then today came. And current Kate discovered the flaws of past Kate’s work*.

Past Kate managed to do this because she was trying to do something silly. So Kathryn and I started on the walls today – and the plan was to just do the fist tile on the walls. Why? Well, that way we could spend a lot of time and get it ‘just so’. Really nicely level and straight and then the next row should be a breeze.

And the first round went okay. But, because I screwed up slightly with the water, I mixed waaaay too much goo. And so we decided we’d do a second row on the ‘easy’ wall.

Ha.

So, I gooped the wall, Kathryn brought in a tile and we set to attempting to adhere it. Of course, when the guy in the store mentioned that one of the challenges with large format tiles like this is they do bow a bit, I didn’t realise quite how f’ing much they bow. So the first attempt to stick it to the wall had a massive gap between the middle of the tile and the tile adhesive.

That obviously wasn’t going to work. So, then I peeled the tile back and attempted to balance it on the tile below. Now if the tile didn’t have a bow to it, this might not have been as blatantly foolish as it was. Kathryn suggested that she should help, but in my head I was trying to work out if this was a job I could continue by myself on a weekday, so I wanted to do the adjustment without help. Now, had I been clever about it, I’d’ve suggested that she stabilize one end, or even prepare to stabilize one end so that if it did start to escape from my grasp it wouldn’t do exactly what it did do.

Which was fall, chip the corner of the tile, shatter the corner of the poorly laid tile, then bounce and chip one of the blue tiles in the shower end of the room.

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So, uh, about as badly as it could have gone.

At least I haven’t grouted anything yet, so this we I’ll get to break that tile that I screwed up laying into tiny pieces as I pull it up and attempt to get the floor back low enough that I can lay a replacement next weekend.

The other area that past Kate has to answer for her crimes is the toilet. Although this is something that isn’t apparent in any of the plumbing books we have. When it says the offset from the wall should be “x inches” it means the offset from the completely finished wall. Now, had our agricrete worked, then sure, it would have fit. But now, with the tiles there is literally zero tolerance, and so the tiles will have to be cut around the toilet.

Not ideal.

Also, because of the thickness of the tile, plus the heated floor, we get to play with flange thickness adjusters.

This is definitely my “yay” face.

* More than once

Eigg-speriments with Carragheen

So, we decided to make Carragheen Pudding (or Hebridean Jelly). We got this way back when we were on Eigg back in 2019, but it’s sat in our cupboard mainly because it’s vanishingly rare that we have 750ml of milk kicking around which we don’t have a use for.

I mean, it’s pretty rare that we have that much milk in the house at all. Certainly dairy in that quantity is uncommon. Oatmilk, maybe. But anyhow, we realised that after xmas we had a most of a half-gallon container left over which we had no specific plan for, along with some extra half-and-half and some extra cream. So that all got thrown in.

Carragheen is, apparently, a specific variety of seaweed (which I didn’t realise until looking it up) and the recipe we have is a little different:


10g Dried Carragheen
750ml Milk
2-3 Strips Lemon Peel
1 tsp Lemon Juice
2 tsp sugar
1 egg yolk
Lemon slices to decorate
Double cream to serve

You rinse then soak the carragheen for 15 minutes. Then plop it in a saucepan with the milk and the lemon peel. You bring that to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes.

At this point the carragheen should be “quite gelatinous” and the mixture should start to thicken. Then you force it all through a fine sieve, rubbing until the caragheen is through.

Return that to the suacepan, stir in the sugar, egg yolk, lemon juice and bring it up to a simmer for about a minute or two, stirring continuously. Then you pour it into a wetted mould and leave to set for 2-3 hours (or in our case, in the fridge, overnight). It’s served with lemon slices and whipped cream.


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Now, we’d never had Carragheen pudding before, so I’ve no idea if what we made is correct, but it came out with a texture like a firm mousse. Or an American pudding, I guess. And it’s… interesting. It’s not bad. It’s just, well, we felt it was lacking something.

We added a bit of honey on top to it as part of our experiments in fiddling with it, which helped. It cut through the creaminess with some sharpness that helped, but texturally it was a bit lacking for our tastes. So today we’re adding a Graham Cracker / cheesecake type base. I’ve just baked that, so hopefully that should fix the texture thing. If it does, I’d happily make it again. It’s really pretty easy – and it doesn’t taste like seaweed, which was a concern. I’d also be tempted to make some kind of sharp-fruity glaze to go on top once it’s set – again, to cut through that milkiness with some sharpness.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing how this experiment goes :)

Took you long enough…

So just before we moved to the states I embarked on the giant ripping project. See, our CD and DVD and now Blu-Ray collection, along with our downloaded media, had become… how shall we put this: A bit of a state. I was once, in my shining youth, someone who kept their file folders on the computer quite delightfully organized.

And then things started to slip.

And then my music files got merged with various friends and various exes, (as opposed to .EXEs) and the result was what can be termed a “hot mess”. There are folders for the same artist with different spellings (Beatles, The Beatles, PJ Harvey, P J Harvey), there are folders with mp3s and FLACs in one place, there’s just… well, it’s abysmal. Some folders have cover art, some don’t. Some have corrupt files from disk problems over the years. At least one has a track where bitrot got the track, but the CD ROM (and it really was almost certainly an actual CD-ROM drive) decided it was good enough anyway, and what you get is a wild second or so of white-noise with a screech in the middle.

So before we moved, as the CDs were being ripped asunder from their cases and placed uncermoniously into DJ Cases (where I’d stored some, but not all CDs after it started to become apparent that I rather like music and apparently want to have a lot of it), well I started ripping them. Only, I ran out of time, and also energy and… and so well, the hot-mess situation got if anything worse.

Because now there’s the “Clean Rips” folder and a separate “Digital Downloads” folder. And then there’s the old “mp3” folder. And while I *tried* to make sure I deleted the duplicate audio files (I’ve ripped this CD, so I’ll delete the old digital copy of it, and just have the new lossless audio copy)… well, I don’t think I hit them all.

Probably in part because of the “hot mess” situation that was going on with the audio files in the first place.

Now we haven’t got to the visual media yet, but a similar problem exists there.

So since I’d given in and ordered two new hard disks (Finally adding Parity! Yay! (as well as some more space)) for the media server, I thought now might be the moment to… actually restart that project. But there were some hurdles to overcome. First was that I used whitelabel disks (these are reconditioned hard drives) because I’m a cheapskate.

Now these drives are warrantied and all that jazz, but they come with a serial number that’s all zeroes. It turns out that – somewhat irritatingly – UNRAID (and apparently a lot of RAID servers), and in fact various OS’s – can’t deal with having more than one of these drives. That’s because they use the serial number for a unique drive ID and in these drives the serial numbers are all zeroes.

However, the drives to provide a unique ID – it’s just not in the serial number tag. Thankfully Nikki found this guide which I kinda of baulked at, at first, because the media server at that point was just one hard drive. No backups, no parity, nothing. Buuuut. When I reminded myself how much cheaper the whitelabel drives had been than new or even used drives I realised that maybe, actually, I’d like to take a terrifying risk with my media server. So I went back, read the guide, decided it wasn’t really that scary and lo, the drives work.

So then I let it do its parity drive build. Then I added the second drive to the array, and then I spent a while discovering that my old DVD drive doesn’t play with UNRAID. I of course discovered this by spending ages trying to work out why UNRAID wasn’t showing a disk in the drive, before just giving up and trying my other portable Blu-Ray (which I bought because this one seemed to not want to read Blu-Rays (before I discovered that they’d been dicks about the BluRay format. Giant media conglomarates really suck arse). So I got that all up and working, then discovered that “Ripper” was doing an abysmal job of recognising audio CDs and decided that I’ll just have to rip them on my Mac.

So then I decided that y’know what? Let’s do the DVDs. Do the DVDs, then the media server can go back up in the loft (until the summer when we’re going to have to work out an alternate plan, because it’s really too hot up there. It was too hot with one drive, with three I’m a bit concerned about longevity).

And that’s when I found out my drive has Riplock. I think I’d vaguely heard of this when it came in, and I thought “arseholes”. So it’s a thing which stops you from ripping DVDs and BluRay disks – which are recorded in video, rather than data formats – at more than about 4x. Usually around 2x. The fig-leaf claim for this is that the drives won’t spin-up to high speed noisily while you’re watching a film – which is bollocks, of course. I mean, if you wanted to do that without interfering with people’s right to legally format shift then you’d make a bit that you set when you asked for data. Is this “playback for viewing” or is this “retrieving data”.

But no, instead they just made it difficult.

So media ripping is going, but slowly. But I’ve now set up Handbrake, so that I can dump the ripped file that I want into its watch directory, and it will then automatically turn it into an H265 file. That might take about 20 years given the fact that the media server is powered by a 4 core Athlon. Buuut, I’m doing the thing I said I’d do. Which is good.

Image showing processor load at 100% on 3 of four cores and at 96% on the fourth core.

Also good is the fact that its on a UPS considering the power went a bit flickery earlier.

Not so good – my awesomely terrible Bootleg copy of Minority Report (screencam, with the world’s most hopeless subtitles) appears to have died of bitrot. Whodathunk that bootleggers would use cheap, grotty media?

Multiple lines of Error: SCSI error - Medium Error - EC Uncorrectable....

It’s twenty-twenty-two…nearly

I used to do these kind year in review things. I’d usually trawl through my posts, find moments of interest, horror or joy and then put together a bit of a year in review.

I actually can’t remember the last year I did this. I thought I’d stopped more recently, but having made it back to about December 2014 it seems I didn’t have one – at least not obviously even then. I mean, it was always a somewhat lackadaisical process. And I suspect part of me not seeing them is that they might occur in February or midway through January. They were more for me – to help my crappy memory store things that had happened. But having written this blog since… err, about 1999 in various forms, there are habits that have come and gone and when exactly that happened is a bit vague.

To some extent that seems more important at the moment. Without the accoutrements of our ‘normal’ happenings; holidays and trips, visits to restaurants and museums, all the regalia of a fairly middleclass existence (I’m fine with that, btw), it’s easy for life to just blur into one long chunk.

I mean, to be fair, the year has mostly consisted of being at home. I’ve read a bunch of books in the last few months (having finally got back some enthusiasm to read, not just to think about reading) of which The Premonition was quite definitely the most disturbing. I think I read A Deadly Education, this year, too, which was an excellent read. Glitter up the Dark was fascinating, but is very academic if you’re thinking of reading it – which is not belied by its cover. Nothing wrong with academic, I enjoyed it loads, but it’s not a light pop-culture read.

Also excellent was the Annalee Newits A Future of Another Timeline. At the moment I’m reading Blowout, then we’ll be doing some alternating fiction / non-fiction for a bit.

But pandemic notwithstanding, we did get away. We headed out to the Kanascat-Palmer state park with our tent during a period when the pandemic was less intense, and when we were both vaccinated and things seemed to be looking up? At least I thought they were. I mean, they were. Objectively, people were getting vaccinated, they were masking and fewer people were dying.

So we had a lovely little trip – although it seems I didn’t ever actually write up what happened. Mainly we didn’t do much, we read and played games and sat outside in the world. Which was lovely.

IMG_20210713_170627

We’ve also had various chicken adventures, from Pippi getting something stuck (no idea what) and having to be fed some olive oil and softened bread, to a case of bumblefoot which we – much to our rather basic veterinary skills surprise – managed to treat successfully at home. Trying to manage the very hot summer weather and the now startlingly cold winter weather (actual -6C, “real feel” -10C)

I spent weeks and weeks trying to find a Mars II EV – a 1960’s Renault based car that had a range of 120 miles and a 48 minute to 80%, 50kW charger. I would still love one. That was because it turned out to be time to replace our BMW i3 with a car less likely to die in a spectacularly expensive way. We bought Imp, our Kia Soul EV. Not as luxurious, but much cheaper to fix.

I’ve also poked at working on Rebecca, transitioned to doing more (and actually paid work) for Transport Evolved, and done a bunch of semi-successful geekery. I’ve a half-working Mycroft Prototype (of course *immediately* after I ordered the bits they completely changed the form-factor and now mine is…irritatingly not ideal). I half-fixed the Ankarsurum mixer. However, unfortunately I think it needs a new belt – which I’ve failed to order because I’ve moved on to other projects and the space is currently taken up by other things.

Mainly, at the moment, the inverter for Rebecca which is absolutely, totally and utterly unwilling to damn-well split in half.

I’m going to try heat next – heating part of the casing and seeing if with some differential heating and more whaling on it with an inappropriately wielded screwdriver I can get it apart.

I also have done some things that have been waiting quite a while to get done – I’ve put new disks in the media server (granted, today. And they’re still getting set-up to be used), tried to finish the 3/4 bath.

Kathryn and I also started work on her art studio. That was meant to be about a week-long project but as you might expect with us it’s… well, it’s taken more than a week and it’s not exaaaactly finished just yet. But it’s coming along. Or getting there, as we say to each other about most things.

I also – in a step which astonished me as much as anyone else – completed becoming an American citizen. This was celebrated in a typically understated way by my colleagues…

IMG_20210611_073327

(…you should have seen the state of my desk, too).

I also spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with Miele and our dishwasher which is now (touch wood) working, and delighting me with the much reduced number of dishes that have to be hand washed.

It has though been an incredibly tough year – I’m tired. I’m so fucking tired. I’m tired of the pandemic – and of people who cheerfully act as though there isn’t a pandemic until they get sick, can’t breathe, and then demand that we magic them better with drugs and medications that just don’t exist.

Or fucking horse dewormer.

We live in the stupidest timeline*.

Since it’s now clear that we’ve screwed the pooch on this one – humanity – we had a chance to stop this back at the beginning of 2020, but we didn’t. Then we could have got everyone vaccinated – by which I mean everyone in every country – but no, drug companies need their pound of (dead) flesh, so we kept fucking patents. So now we’re at waiting for it to mutate into something we can more-or-less live with, at least maybe not die with, and become endemic. Or – if we’re phenomenally lucky – we might come up with a general Coronavirus vaccine – which sounds great, but at this point I’m assuming we’ll fuck it up too.

So, yeah, I’m a shining ray of positivity.

We’re trying to decide if next year we just bite the bullet and book tickets to see my mum. She’s not the wellest human in the world, and this pandemic has already robbed me of 2 years worth of visits. She’s already had COVID twice thanks to her compromised immune system. So I worry about visiting her, but I also get that she wants to see me.

I went to a press event not long ago and spent the entire time from arrival at the airport to departing the airport wearing a very stylish N-95. I took it off briefly for some quick swigs of water, and y’know what, I hated every living minute of that flight.

So yeah.

Enough of that.

So next year? Next year I’m hoping to get some things actually finished. I’d like to get Rebecca moving (and have just forked out $400 for a tool to help with that), I would like to get the record deck…

…to not do that. Also to run smoothly and at the right speed, because at the moment it warbles like a yodeling thing.

So that’s where we’re at as 2021 rolls to a close. Or whines. Or whatever god-awful thing its doing.

Here’s to 2022 being better (and not, as the current joke is, twenty-twenty-too).

* Granted that’s because many of the stupider timelines humans have already eviscerated themselves out of existence.