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I meant to write this yesterday, but since it was a nice evening I decided to mow the half kilometre of driveway (it's technically a communal road, but nobody else does it...). I did this because I planned to do the mowing tomorrow if it isn't raining. Well, one thing led to another, you know how it is.
Now the mowing is done. Burned through about four or five litres of petrol (eek!), but it's done. At least, for this week.


My toolbox

Getting sick of misplacing my assorted tools (there aren't many, it's amazing how easy it is to lose them!), I decided that when I found an old empty plastic toolbox languishing in a dusty corner of my room, I would populate it with various pieces of iron and steel.

The top contains two flaps opening into two compartments each side. These now contain assorted brass screws (cross-head), and larger screws and bolts plus tiny bolts on the left. On the right, medium sized bolts and washers (assorted lengths) and larger ones.

My toolbox, the top

Inside is a pull out tray. This holds the high tech tools. Below it, the low tech tools.

My toolbox, inside

I suppose there's something to be said about opening a toolbox and finding a multimeter, various probes, and an oscilloscope. If you're looking for a spanner, keep right on walking. I don't have any. Don't know where they went, but I don't have any. That torch, by the way, is a UV torch. Kind of freaky to walk around at night with it. Some flowers look remarkably different when illuminated with UV.

As for actual tools, some screwdrivers. A large adjustable wrench, a small one, scissors, a multitool (flip out bits for various purposes, it is intended for fixing bicycles but it is useful in itself), and you can see a ratcheting screwdriver handle with about thirty different attachments (including a set of sockets, very useful). Underneath that is another box of attachments, about a hundred or so. There's literally no stupid shaped screw or bolt that I don't have a widget to fit it. Even those annoying ones with the little nobble in the middle so you can't use a regular allen key on them. The ruler is a fold up one. I think it is about a metre in total, in 20cm sections.

Now, I have all my tools in one place. Well, most of them. I literally don't have space for the school multimeter (it's a big chunky thing) and if I ever buy spanners and such, I'll probably need to get a second toolbox and split them into "geek" and "oil-stained" categories...


How not to fit a sink trap

We had a new staff break room at work. It's been designed to be quite nice, if you overlook the fact that whoever chose the furnishings was either colourblind or had no issue with all the clashing colours. Anyway, there's a set of tables for eating at. There are sofas and easy chairs near to a big-ass Bravia television (which is often tuned to CSTAR, a sort of French MTV). And there's a place for preparing food. Microwave, sink, counter top, bins. And vending machines for coffee (only Café Merling who have the concession for the machines basically came out and disabled them the moment the lockdown was announced).

The sink and water fountain were installed, amazingly, without any traps. Basically a straight pipe from the sink down to the drain.
Now, anybody who knows the slightest little bit about plumbing will understand that the trap serves a very important purpose besides getting blocked up with hair and unidentified crap. It acts as a barrier between the drainage system and the room. It's the same reason for that weird bend at the back of toilets. It's not so your poop can go "wheeee round the bend!", it's simply to hold some water so that the stink from the sewerage doesn't permeate the room and make everybody feel like tossing their cookies on the floor.

So imagine what it was like sometimes when we had a sink with no trap. I would, from time to time, go down and toss a bucketful of bleach solution down the drain. It wasn't perfect and probably sucks as far as environment goes, but it did at least make the break room not entirely unpleasant.

The man who installed the system came back on Tuesday. As part of the guarantee, he was expected to put right what was wrong. That is to say, bolt the sink down properly, and fit a trap. The sink bolting took maybe three odd minutes. The trap? Well, I turned up to work just before twenty to nine and he was already there with his head under the sink. I saw him leaving at about quarter to twelve. Yes. Three hours to fit a trap.

During that time, I did two tours of the break room and locker rooms to disinfect everything with ethanol spray (it's part of our "don't die of COVID" plan), so I got to see the man huffing, hawing, sighing, and saying "putain!" (depending on how it is said, it can represent everything from "dammit" up to a string of words best not written). His was about the "goddamn it all to hell and back" level of speaking. Not quite into outright obscenities, but close.
Why? Well, he would apply some glue or sealant or something, and then turn on the water and wonder why it was leaking. Didn't anybody tell him that the stuff is supposed to dry in order to set? You can't squirt some stuff and expect it to be instantly watertight. Well, you probably can if you're in the army 'cos they get more interesting toys to play with. This guy? Um...

No, really. Um...

Sit down (if you aren't already).

Trust me, you're going to want to be sitting for when I inflict the full horror of this on you.


There are no words

There are no words... it's not a trap. It's a jerry-rigged U-bend held together with... what the hell is it actually held together with?

I fitted an access hole to the big outside drainage pipe a year or so back, when the drain got clogged and the bath wouldn't drain. I punched a hole in the pipe, smoothed it off, and fitted a tap-on (it's basically a part designed to branch a normal narrow pipe into the larger one). I fitted into it a threaded bung, a cap that can be removed to gain access.
Actually, look, I'll go and take a photo of it:

Drainage access hole
Now, I'm not going to claim to be any good whatsoever at plumbing. But I did that in one evening using a steak knife and a hammer (to cut the hole) and this magical chemical welding compound to stick the plastic bits together. You'll have met this stuff before if you've ever built an Airfix kit. Anyway, it was all put in place, left to set, now it's rock solid and entirely functional. I poked the flexible unblocker thingy into there and fed it down into the spur pipe. A little while later an epic gurgle and water gushed all over the place as the bath emptied. It was indeed hair and unidentified crap.

So, what on earth is that weird attempt at a U bend held together with? Would it survive being knocked? Note, also the piece of paper towel underneath. I put that there. I'm sure you can guess why.

This took three hours. I asked the man who does the mechanical designs and such if the workman was paid by the hour or something. He burst out laughing and said not by us. Putting right what's obviously wrong is part of the guarantee, so the company, thankfully, pays zero. Speaking of zero, that's about how many marks out of ten this attempt at plumbing deserves...


Playmobil magical girls

I saw this at the supermarket earlier this evening while doing my weekly shop.
Playmobil magical girls
I'm not sure what the backstory is supposed to be, but it just screams of being inspired by any number of magical girls in any number of animé series. Colour coded girls? Check. Ridiculous outfits? Check (notice the sweet desert inspiration!). Even more ridiculous hair? Check. Check. Check! One has a cat motif? Check.
All we're missing now is the magical part and the "you wouldn't be able to show this if that was a real girl" transformation sequence as she powers up from her normal boring outfit (usually some sort of school uniform) into her no-tween-should-be-caught-dead-dressed-like-this magical outfit.

Oh, and if you have a youngish child who gets into the whole "magical girl" thing, unless you want to end up with a pee-soaked traumatised child, might I suggest you don't let her watch Madoka Magica (may or may not have "Puella" in the title, depending on how it was translated) by herself? Let's just say that the third episode is a wham episode with a disturbing ending, and it rapidly goes south to be one of the most popular deconstructions of the whole magical girl thing in a long time (though some would argue that when given a philosophical analysis, it falls apart). It's quite interesting if you can follow the themes. But younger people (or snowflakes)? Might come across as a bit of a nightmare.
On the other hand, if they want to actually be a magical girl, making them watch Madoka might cure them of that affliction...


The sun is going down, so I guess all that remains now is to water the plants, grab a pack of salty parabolas, and then find something to watch. I'm not looking for anything deep or lengthy, so I'll probably watch "Revolt".



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David Pilling, 7th May 2020, 03:18
Insects see in UV, so the torch makes sense. Plumbing is a highly paid career - better than being a graduate. There was probably a time when tools where expensive and to be treasured - not like that anymore - which means one does not keep using the same ones forever. 
John, 7th May 2020, 11:20
Curiously, the French word for a u-bend or trap is "siphon" - exactly what you don't want to happen! You need it to retain the water seal! 
Your ingenious device does have a proper name in English - it's called a "rodding eye", thought the commercial version slopes in the direction of flow - easier for less-flexible rods. 
Best the French can do is orifice nettoyant according to Reverso, and Word Reference offers nothing useful! 
As for tools, there's no tool like an old tool, people are always saying to me! 
Rick, 8th May 2020, 23:07
Yes, I know the French word is siphon. I tried to explain why it was a little confusing for me, but seeing as the French word for siphon appears to be...siphon. Yeah, they just weren't getting it. <sigh> 
It wouldn't surprise me if "orifice nettoyant" wasn't an actual thing. Frenchies like complicated words. For example, the current "I really need to go out" forms. Why not put "habite a" or "adresse" when "demeurant" will do? 
Speaking of weird French words - I quite like "Saperlipopette" (which is a French equivalent to "gosh dang it", expect people to stare for a moment and then burst out laughing), and of course given the amount of English language songs on CSTAR and the number of people who DON'T speak English... well... yaourter. As in "to yogurt". Which probably describes most people around here attempting to sing along with "Blinding Lights" (by The Weeknd (not a typo!)). Heck, I speak the same language and I don't know what they're on about half the time! 
Somebody told me ages ago that old tools were not made to as exact specifications as the are these days, so a spanner had to be at least a decade old before you could be sure it fit properly. I suspect he was winding me up, but you never know. 
The strange thing is, looking at tools (including those owned by various tradesmen), they are either shiny new tools or things that look like they're from the wartime era. You know, reddish brown but not exactly rusted so much as aged (and will outlive several owners). I wonder what happened to all the tools from, say, the '70s? 
And, finally, if I can do a job as poor as that and call myself a plumber and get paid well, I'm in the wrong job! 

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