Painting my house (among other things)

I need a weekend from my weekend. ‘Course, it’s my fault for trying to do so much at once.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been preparing to paint my house. (The outside, that is.) I should have painted it last year, as my home inspector suggested (see [[Meeting with the Home Inspector]]), but I had a few things that kinda got in the way ([[Moving into my New (Old) House|moving into the house]], [[My Housewarming Party|my housewarming party]], [[Cathy and Craig’s Wedding|a wedding]], and the CBC 50th Anniversary train). By the time I could have done it, the weather was too cold.
Once the roof was reshingled (an expensive but necessary repair), I set down to start painting. I didn’t have to strip all the paint off, but I did have to remove paint from around the windows and the front door. Most of it had disintegrated and really needed to be replaced. The rest I can paint over.
Weather and a few too many activities last week delayed my start, which I pegged as Saturday. However, I had forgotten about one little detail: I’d already promised to help my friends Fritz and Jin move into their new condo.
This, I might add, I was more than happy to do. Fritz had helped me move last year ([[Moving into my New (Old) House]]), so this was my turn. Luckily, Fritz didn’t have anything truly awkward (except maybe the futon), so it was just a matter of hauling things around. There were five of us actually moving things: Fritz, Doug, Adrian, Godfrey, and myself. Jin was still frantically packing when I arrived just after 9:00.
Fritz appeared minutes after me, carrying breakfast. (Had I known, I wouldn’t have hit Tim Horton’s before coming over.) Scarfing down a sausage McMuffin and a hashbrown, we proceeded to cart down boxes, tables, cabinets, beds (in pieces, of course), sheets of glass (from the tables), chairs, bags of who-knows-what, candlesticks (big ones), lights, paintings … we wouldn’t taken the doors, the toilet, and the kitchen sink if we could have gotten away with them.
The hardest part of moving is going out. Because everything is spread out, it’s hard to gauge how much room they’ll take in the truck. Although Fritz had rented a medium-sized U-Haul, it wasn’t immediately clear how well everything would fit. Having moved too many times for my own good, I was confident that we’d get everything there in one trip.
Slowly, but sure, the truck began to fill up. Godfrey had brought his pick-up truck, which would end up carrying a spare bed and a bicycle. Adrian’s Golf carried the TV and the computer. My Mini carried the glass from the tables. The truck was filled quite well, but far from capacity. We could have quite easily packed in many more things, but ultimately there was no need for such efficiency. Besides, Fritz and Jin don’t have that much stuff.
(In fact, that ended up being a debate: who had more stuff in their move? Tamara and myself, or Fritz and Jin? We couldn’t decide.)
The new condo is quite literally that — new. In fact, it’s still being finished. The condo was supposed to be ready last year. An accident set off one of the largest fires seen in Calgary, destroying most of the complex, and damaging a few units that had been finished years earlier. (Critical Mass’ HR director fled home when she found out to save her cat. Luckily, her unit was spared damage.)
The smell of fresh paint, carpet adhesive, and fresh-cut wood permeated the air. Banging could be heard from nearly every direction. (The crews have been working non-stop to finish the condos.) Our first obstacle was finding a place to park — the streets around Fritz and Jin’s condo were littered with construction vehicles. We ended up in a no-park zone.
Next obstacle: stairs. There were no ramps, no direct access to the lobby. The architects weren’t particularly bright on that point, in my opinion. Lucky, nothing was particularly heavy. All we had to do was reverse the process (significantly easier) and move everything into the condo.
Unpacking the trucks and cars would have taken less time than packing, were it not for the stairs and an elevator that were “in the way”. But even with that and Godfrey’s early departure, we still finished the move in about four hours. There was only one causality, a floor lamp that appeared to have had the threads stripped from one of its joints. (The lamp still works.)
The move over, Fritz returned the U-Haul, and we headed over to Fujiyama for a post-move meal. Adrian, Doug, Fritz and Jin would return to the condo to sort out the contents. I, however, had a house to paint. Or more specifically, needed to get supplies with which to paint.
Luckily, I knew what I wanted. Basic white paint, a can of green for accents, a couple of brushes, and a paint gun. Yeah, I know — what do I really need a paint gun for? Why not use brushes, right? Well, considering the amount of painting that I’ll need to do on a (semi-)regular basis, I think the cost of the paint gun will far outweigh the time I’d have to spend painting by hand. And it’ll save wrist strain.
One other thing that I needed to get, which I determined after an inability to borrow one from someone, was a power washer. Every single site I read and every person I talked to said that I had to wash my house before applying the paint, otherwise it wouldn’t stick as well. Trips to Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire revealed models running from $129 to over $800. I settled for a little 1200 PSI Karcher.
Rent? Oh yeah, I could have definitely rented both. But I’d have paid for it in the long run. The paint gun would have run me up quickly, to the point where I’d have paid more for renting than for owning. As for the power washer, the only rentals were gas-powered monsters that could strip not only the paint but probably some of the wood. (For the record, 1200 PSI is *plenty* for washing dirt, etc. from a house.)
Changing into my painting clothes, I set about to wash down the house and prepare to start painting the next day. For the next three or so hours, I proceeded to get very wet and very dirty. I had paint chips, dirt, insect carcases, water (of course), and Heaven-knows-what-else rain down on me as I removed all the gunk the house has been collecting since the last time someone took the time to do the job. I’m reasonably certain it wasn’t the last owner.
With the house dripping wet, there was nothing I could do until the next morning. Tired from a day of moving and cleaning, I opted for a steak dinner. On my way to the store, I felt the need to obtain a cold beverage with which to relax. Imagine my shock and delight when, wedged next to Sleeman’s Honey Brown, I found the long-missed lime-green packaging of Steam Whistle Pilsner. Life was definitely getting better.
Originally planning to rise at 8:00, I evicted myself from bed around 9:00, opting for an extra hour of rest. Saturday still had me worn out, and I had a long day ahead of me.
Task #1: Read the instructions for the paint gun. The last thing I want to do is screw the thing up. With the early morning, it was an ideal time to try and paint a portion of the house not easily seen — the north cupola (containing the bathroom) wall. This requires me to climb onto the roof on my fancy-schmancy ladder. (It bends in three places to help me do just what I was trying to do.)
This is when I found out just how steep my roof is, and how there was no way I would have been able to reshingle the roof on my own. In fact, the roof is so steep that I couldn’t even climb off the ladder (which bent onto the roof) and climb up on my own. The shingles don’t help — they’re flat so there’s no grit on which to gain a foothold. I only managed to paint part of the small wall. As it was more a test than a task, I didn’t mind too much.
As a result of my resounding non-success, I realized that I needed a paint roller to reach the more inaccessible areas. Either that, or mountaineering gear so I could climb up the side of my roof. Either, I resolved to paint the rest later.
The rising sun prevented me from tackling the rear or east walls. (I’m leaving the west wall for sometime later, when there’s less pressure. You can’t see it unless you go into my neighbour’s yard, anyway.) I wasn’t too keen on doing the front of the house until I had a little more practice with the gun. I decided to give the stripped windows their first shot of green paint.
About 11:30, I broke for a shower. Nana had invited me to the grand opening of her condo complex in the north end of town, and I wasn’t about to show up looking like I’d just done battle against a flock of birds with the runs.
Nana lives in a retirement complex. Basically, an apartment building for people with not as much mobility as they once had. The amenities include a cafeteria (with pretty decent food, I’m told), nice views of a small man-made lake, exercise room, library, theatre (and a darn nice one, at that), and a wonderful little courtyard. The complex is next to a new strip-mall that has an IGA, various little shops, and 17 food service establishments.
Nana fed me lunch. It was supposed to be a BLT, but I don’t like raw T. In fact, I can’t stand ’em. I can eat T any other way, just not raw. So I had a BLC (cheese). It was still yummy.
The party started around 13:00, and we hung around for about 45 minutes. It seemed to be little more than just a gathering. There seemed to be no official announcements, or greetings, or ceremony of any kind. Nana opted to give me the guided tour of the facilities in lieu of waiting around for something that didn’t seem to be happening.
We ended up at the balcony at the end of her hallway, just down from her apartment. The balcony looks north across the lake. It’s a wonderful view, even if it is towards another complex being built on the north side of the lake. We sat and talked for almost an hour before I took my leave to resume my house painting.
But I didn’t go right home — I made a stop by Revy to pick up the paint roller, tray, and an extension so I could reach those hard-to-reach places. I didn’t even get in the main entrance when my cell phone rang. It was my friend (and realtor) Robyn. Robyn has taken it upon herself (bless the woman) to be a matchmaker, and I’m her latest project.
It was a set-up. I knew it was. Just like Thursday night, when we’d met for drinks down at the Barley Mill. Unlike that time, however, plans were fairly definite: a movie at 19:05 where I’d meet Robyn’s mysterious woman. (We have talked on the phone — an impromptu Robyn set-up, when we were at the pub.) Although it was a movie I’d already seen, I figured that I’d like to meet this woman, I could stand to get out for a while, and besides — “Pirates of the Caribbean” is actually a pretty good movie.
Back at the ranch, I unpacked my newly-gotten booty, and got on with the show. The east wall was now in the shade, leaving me to start painting. I opted for the middle third of the wall, which is the section the cupola runs off of. The rollers helped me get the very top, which even my rather-long step ladder can’t reach. Of course, I got almost as much paint on me as I did on the wall and overhang.
Reaching the level, it was time for me to change and prepare for the movie. (Note: I do not use the word “date”. It was a group event, as to remove any pressure.) Just as I was about to walk out the door for the trip up, my phone rang. It was Robyn. It appeared that my mystery woman had developed car trouble, and had decided not to go. This pretty much eliminated my desire to go out, since I could finish more painting.
When I explained to Robyn that I’d rather paint, she was disappointed. But when I mentioned that I’d already seen the movie, she squealed in delight. I was willing to go see a movie I’d already seen just so I could meet a girl! I suddenly felt like I was in high school again. (Of course, this sort of thing *never* happened to me in high school.)
Back into my painting gear, I tackled the rest of the east wall, and slid around to the east side of the south wall. I shut down the paint gun for the night after that. Although very fast, it’s quiet noisy and would probably bother my neighbours. I opted to give the windows a second coat of green, and apply a first coat to the window sills on the east wall.
The sunlight gone along with the remainder of my energy, I went for a late dinner. I already knew that today was going to be rough. My arms are sore (from holding a fully-extended paint roller at a distance), my feet are killing me (standing on ladders), and I’ve got paint edged under every fingernail.
And I’ve still got about 3/4 of a house to paint.

Leaking hot water heater and house party

I’ve often heard it said that there’s nothing like the sound of pitter-pattering around your home. This weekend, I found that sometimes this sound isn’t so nice. Like when your hot water heater is leaking.
I noticed it in the early afternoon on Saturday, shortly after the third load of laundry had finished in the washer. There was a hissing noise emanating from the basement. I assumed at first that this was from the heater reheating. But the noise didn’t stop.
Further inspection — actually *looking* at the heater — revealed hot water leaking from the relief valve. This was the first time I actually had a mild panic as a homeowner. How the hell could I stop/fix this? I knew a little of hot water heaters, but not enough to fix one. Luckily for me, my sister married an original Mr. Fix-It.
A phone call to Ontario found my sister and brother-in-law in the glow of having just finished the installation of their kitchen skylight. Cathy was a tad surprised to hear me ask for Craig. (Usually, it’s the other way around.) Craig gave me a few ideas as what to do, and some ideas of maintenance. The first step: hook up a garden hose and purge the tank. While purging, open the valve a couple of times and clean it out.
The relief valve on a hot water tank is a very simple (but very vital) piece of equipment. A hot water tank runs at about 150 psi. While that doesn’t sound like much, if a hot water tank were to explode at that pressure, you could say good-bye to your house and everything in it. That’s what the relief valve is for. It’s set to open at 150 psi and bleed off excess pressure before something nasty happens.
Except mine was just open. After purging the tank, the leak was even worse. Another call to Ontario. This time, I removed the valve from the tank. That’s when I found the culprit of all my problems. Although I can’t tell for sure, the inside of my tank seems to be lined with about a half inch of calcium deposits. If ever there was an advertisment for water softeners, this is it. The temperature probe on the valve was so encrusted, and I had to pull quite hard to get it out.
Thus began my repair project: immersing in a glass full of CLR and trying to get the thing to work properly. My grandiose plans for hitting the gym and getting in a little exercise before events in the evening were rapidly going to pot. By 19:00, the best I’d been able to do is a slight (but still noticeable) leak. And that was with a lower temperature. At least I could have a shower.
I left for a party hosted by Chrissie, a fellow co-worker, around 21:00 — the valve returned to its CLR bath for the next 15 hours.
While we wait for the valve to soak, let me tell you about this party. Chrissie, a long-standing CM employee, wanted to throw a “nothing to do with Stampede” party. For those of you not in the know, we’re currently immersed in the Calgary Stampede, which means the invasion of this city by every cowboy wannabe in the world for two weeks of … well, probably the best explanation is drunken stupidity. I’m really glad I no longer live right downtown.
Held in the southeast quadrant of town, Chrissie is in an area that I had previously thought I wouldn’t want to live in. But her house was gorgeous — owned and renovated over a few months by Capri and Jason (other co-workers). They’d done it mostly for fun. (Yes, they’re both crazy.) It made for a great party venue.
The soiree had a fairly healthy cross-section of the company, new to veteran, programmer to artist. And three DJs (two of whom are on my WebDev team) who kept the tunes running for the next few hours. There were about 60 people there, though it was hard to get an accurate count — people kept coming and going all night.
One of the key reasons was to jointly celebrate Cory and Laura’s birthdays (both on Sunday). And hey, like we really need a good excuse to get together and have fun. The trick is just to avoid talking about work.
Shawn came out, too. It was good to see him again. Shawn’s been on leave for a couple of months, and we’re really looking forward to his return at the end of the month. It’s just been too quiet without him around.
I value Shawn’s opinion, mostly because he’s about as genuine as they come. Towards the end of the evening, Shawn and I were talking on the couch, when he mentioned that it was good to see “the Old Sowrey” again. I was a tad confused at first. I know I’m among the older folk in the WebDev group, but I didn’t realize I’d become the “Old Sowrey”. But Shawn qualified this by adding that the “New Sowrey” had worried him.
Basically, Shawn had remembered what I was like in my first year and a half here. I was loud, obnoxious, and apparently a lot more fun. In the last year, I’ve become much more business-oriented, more focussed, and apparently a lot less fun. The thing is — I agreed with Shawn’s assessment. My ambition to rise in the ranks had led me to reforming myself to be more “appealing” to those who would promote me. I succeeded (far more than I thought possible) in that aspect, but inadvertantly led me to failing in another.
The team dynamic is everything. No-one gets into the WebDev group unless they’ve got the attitude to go along with the skill. It was that attitude that I’d slowly been killing over the last year. I’ve actually become *too* professional.
Before you start objection with this analysis, I’ll point out that this was not some snap decision. This was a bit of a revelation (even if it was someone pointing out the obvious), and I did spend some time truly thinking about it. It’s something that I’m going to have to keep an eye on. I want to be a professional, but the last thing I want to do is have that get in the way of having fun with my teammates.
We left the party around 04:00. We knew we were ready when Cory just upped and walked out the front door. I’d stopped drinking about two hours earlier, knowing that I’d be driving people home. Originally it was just Shawn. But Candace abandoned Cory at the party, meaning he’d need a lift home. And Reid, who’d somehow managed to hang out that long, asked for a ride since he wasn’t far from Cory’s place.
The ride back to Cory’s was fairly quick, though he lives at the south-west edge of town. At four in the morning, most of the intersection lights are blinking (amber on the main thoroughfare, red on the minor ones) — only major intersections have their lights still in normal operation. Which was good for Cory.
We hit our only red light when we got to Southland and MacLeod. Cory, sitting in the front passenger seat, nonchalantly turned and opened the door. At first, I thought he was going to get out. (Cory was still quite loaded at this point, and I’ve seen drunks do weird things at early hours of the morning.) Cory leaned over, but not to get out of the car. He cursed me later for taking so long to stop at a light.
As Shawn and I returned to downtown (Shawn lives not too far from my house), we noted that the sun was taking an awfully long time to set. It was then we realized that it was so late that it was early. Already, I knew that my sleeping schedule was going to be really screwed up for the next couple of days.
Meanwhile, back at the hot water heater…
Awaking around 13:00 (having gone back to bed after Jim called me at 10:15 to play disc golf, which I sleepily refused), I returned to the hot water tank problem. The valve had sat in CLR all night, and was glistening clean — no more rust or calcium. Figuring this was good, I taped it up and slapped it back in. A couple small drips.
Fixed, right? Wrong. There shouldn’t be any drips. So it was off to Revy to get a new valve, and some piping for a drain pipe (the previous owner didn’t have one). Luckily, this stuff is so standard it was almost ridiculous how fast I picked up the valve, a 3/4″ adapter (for the pipe), a connector, a three-foot section of copper tubing, and a plumbing soldering kit (I didn’t have one yet, and it was as good an excuse as any to get one).
Admittedly, I didn’t purchase the valve with the intent to replace it right away. Actually, I had hoped the dripping would stop while I was gone. I might have been able to deal with a periodic drip, but when I raised the temperature to its normal setting, gushing water sealed the fate of the valve. It had to go.
Luckily, my father had taught me how to install plumbing when I was a kid. I’m no expert, but I can handle most of the simple stuff. Probably couldn’t do a home improvement show, but as far as a pressure relief valves go, I’m good as gold. All I have to do now is sit back and wait to see what will go wrong next.
My bet’s on the furnace…

Rocky Mountain Rail Society Canada Day

On Canada Day, most people take the time to go do something special, like visit events in their local community or town, possibly visit one of Canada’s majestic national parks (which are free today), or visit the local taverns and have one of Canada’s national beverages with friends.
Me? I hang around with trains.
Okay, before everyone gets all over me for doing “the train thing” again, I have to say that this is for the Rocky Mountain Rail Society, not me. Given the choice, I’d probably have hung out in and around the just-reopened Prince’s Island Park for the day. I probably would have avoided the killer sunburn I managed to get on my face. (You’d think that since I planned ahead and brought sunblock that I’d use it. Shows how much you know!)
Every year on Canada Day, the Rocky Mountain Rail Society (I’m going to write “RMRS” from herein — it’s a long name to type) puts on a “show”. It’s not really a show, but a chance for us to connect with some of the local enthusiasts, show off some of our equipment (the “Eagle Springs” combine car — no, not the farm type, a beautiful 1930’s passenger car, and our Alco S-3 diesel. This stuff usually just sits in Calgary because we can’t normally do anything with it. But on Canada Day, not only do people get to see this stuff, but they get to ride it, too.
Starting last year, Don managed to get us into the old CP Ogden Shops (now the Alstom Shops) to hold our show. It’s very handy, since that’s where our equipment is being stored here in Calgary. It’s also convenient, since there’s a plethora of rail equipment from multiple owners all over the massive complex.
We’d been out twice before Canada Day, getting things ready. Last Wednesday, it was vacuuming the cars and general clean-up. Yesterday, it was preparing the display and getting things roughly set up. And making a few repairs to CP’s display cars (graciously donated for the day so there was more than just our stuff around) — during switching, someone had flattened the railing needed to hook the stairs to get in. Nothing a blowtorch, sledgehammer, and prybar won’t fix.
Don’t try this at home, kids, we’re experienced professionals. (We do this to 6060 all the time.)
This morning was gorgeous. Which was great for me, since I had to spend the first 45 minutes awake in the gym. Arthur (friend, co-worker, and workout buddy) has put me on a new torture regimen. He claims my butt’s going to be in severe pain tomorrow. I truly hope not. Especially with all the walking and standing I did today…
A massive volunteer crew — the largest I’ve ever seen for the RMRS — was beginning to assemble when I arrived at Ogden just after 11:00 (ironically enough, I was delayed by a freight train). Thus began an hour of hurried unpacking, setting up, moving of heavy objects, taping off areas verboten, and making sure everything was ready after the various cars were switched into their locations. CP loaned us the use of a SW 900 diesel-electric switcher (#6711), their historic mail car (#3266), and towed the train down the south side of the Ogden yard for about 2200 yards before returning, to give people a little ride.
The crowd we got was a lot larger than I thought it would be. We don’t publicize this (for a variety of reasons), so we don’t get a lot of people. Still, most of our chairs were filled. It was pretty impressive, I think. We had the deputy mayor, the head of CP’s Heritage division, and representatives from the RCMP out to represent not only rail history, but of course, Canada’s history. It is Canada Day, after all.
The afternoon shot by. Before I knew it, the clock read 16:00, and everyone was gone. We packed up, shunted the cars, and were ready to go home just after 17:00. Which was great, because my head was killing me.
That’s when I realized I’d had too much sun. Tomorrow’s gonna hurt.