Friday, 23 September 2005

Water, Water Everywhere

image Whilst I will not pretend that my case is anywhere near as severe as those who have suffered Katrina's devastation (or Rita's to come), I do wonder exactly how much one is expected to take. Today, the greater part of my house was flooded again - enough inches to wet furniture - for the forth time.

After two major storms and an "indoor lake" when my neighbors hosed down to prepare their house for painting, now this.

For the last few days, the local council have been tinkering with the water. What they are doing is great: instead of using the current gas guzzling pumps to send water uphill, they were diverting the system to bring the water down from the mountains, using gravity.

Now considering how abruptly mountainous Tenerife is, I have to wonder why the heck they weren't doing this in the first place, but I won't go there. There is never any logic in their reasoning.

Well, except that the current change is, apparently, they say, due to rising oil prices and to that, I say, shove the price up some more then, if it is going to finally FORCE people to look at doing things in more sustainable, economical viable and environmentally respectful ways.

Of course, nothing is ever as simple as the plan though.

For several days I had been living with the sound of rushing water somewhere. Couldn't find a leak and nothing was turned on, but it was pretty conspicuous (read bloody disruptive) at night.

The only good point was that after six years with water pressure so pathetically weak that I'd have to dance round in circles to get my entire body wet in the shower - I could piddle faster - I suddenly had a raging torrent capable of pressure washing me from head to foot in an instant - and that was when I only wanted to wash my hands in the basin.

So yesterday, I popped down to have a quiet word with the guy in charge of water maintenance, because I wanted them to be aware about the extremity of the noise and pressure in my house and, because I was concerned that it might break something (knowing they'd bill me for the pleasure of "using" the additional water).

I knew my instincts would be right. I also knew the response I'd get before I went down. Nothing is ever a problem here in the Canaries, unless it happens to one of them.

So, of course, what happens today?

First the pressure rose to the extent that my toilet cistern began constantly filling, even though it was full and hadn't been used.

Then, as work was coming to an end, the water maintenance guy came to the door and asked me to check to see if the pressure was OK for my water heater to work. As I walked across to go to try it, I saw that the other half of the house was under water.

This water had come from the pipe that serves the washing machine out in the outside back patio / utility room, water had filled that area, gathered as much muck as it could and then tumbled down the stairs from there into the house proper. It took me hours to sweep it all out and it will take forever to clean and dry it all out properly.

Now, bear in mind that washing machine has been quite happily plumbed in there for six years. I am now told that I must switch this supply off when I am not actually using the machine. Nah!

Also bear in mind that the guy came and knocked at my door to ask me about water pressure. He had, therefore, implied that he knew that this pressure had been altered by the works.

His next "trick" (on seeing the flood) was to claim that the current works had no effect on the water pressure, so it must be something else, like that the regulator may be broken (it couldn't be that the EXCESSIVE pressure broke it, by any slim chance?).

And, yes, he just walked away fast leaving me to deal with the mess on my own.

After the fiasco with the power last week, I feel like I am living in a Flanders and Swann nightmare. Younger viewers won't have a clue what I mean. See, The Gas Man Cometh.

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Wind Power

You can never get any when you need it ... Though, the dog finished off the remains of my lentil stew yesterday and today, she could power the national grid. Stinky! :)

Actually, that's not the kind of wind I was talking about (and, yes, I know that American viewers call that gas and what you also call gas, we call petrol and, we could go round in circles all day "getting lost in translation"), but last week I could have done with some power - period.

We had significant outages on three separate days, culminating on Friday evening with a three hour power cut. Then, just when the power had been back on long enough to start the computer and re-load the work I was planning on doing ... *poof* and it was gone again.

Half an hour later, process repeated and off it went for the third time.

When I have no power, there is NOTHING whatsoever I can do. The house is too dark for my poor old eyes to read regular books (remember those?), even in daytime. No TV, no computer, no coffee (panic). Even my ISDN phone line doesn't work without electricity. For the first time, I got quite concerned about the isolation. This is when living alone in the middle of absolutely nowhere starts to look less appealing, even a little scary.

I can understand when the power invariably goes off during storms or high winds, because this always badly affects the overhead power lines, but there were no such weather conditions last week. As it was peak evening hours, I harbour a suspicion that the current system just ain't up to coping with growth. Maybe I'll just have to feed the dog more beans? :)

Saturday, 10 September 2005

Confidence building

image I was very fortunate that some years ago the company I was working for sent me on training courses in First Aid with the well known St. John Ambulance in the UK and, it is probably the most worthwhile thing I ever did in my life.

Just to blow my own trumpet (very un-English thing to do, I know), I was apparently only the second person ever to pass my particular course, which qualified me under the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981, with 100%.

First aid was something I had wanted to do anyway, after once witnessing a rather nasty accident involving a motorcyclist. I think I did OK organizing people and directing the traffic around the accident (I don’t know how, I just “found” myself doing this), but even so, I felt inadequate and guilty because I couldn’t help the guy. (In retrospect, I learned that doing nothing, beyond getting the bike engine turned off, was the right thing to "do.")

So when the opportunity to volunteer for the courses came up, I grabbed it.

And, I’ll never forget the words of the teacher. She started her lecture on Emergency Aid by informing us, “Everyone dies of exactly the same thing; shortage of breath”.

Her point, which is entirely logical, when you think about it, is that shortage of breath may have a million and one different causes, but that really is the only thing you need worry about.

This teaches you to focus just on that and removes all the fear you might have had, like you think you won’t grasp First Aid or you think you need all sorts of complicated medical knowledge in order to learn it, which you don’t.

But it isn’t just coping with medical emergencies that learning First Aid helps you with. It boosts your self-confidence as you learn to assess and cope with all kinds of situations and daily stresses (medical or not) more calmly. You become more able to respond to situations and solve problems, rather than react to them.

See more progress on: learn first aid

Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Catastrophe Befalls

image Anyone who has followed Garfield for the last 27+ years will already know a few thousand ways that a cat can seriously annoy a human. Add one more ...

When I rented this house it came with furniture. I also have my own furniture, so a lot of what can't be shoe-horned into the rooms is stored out in the covered back patio that doubles as the utility room plus cat canteen and conservatory.

One of those things is my set of dining chairs. They are nice, sturdy chairs, apart from the seats, which, once upon a time, used to be raffia. I bought them because I love them as they are pretty much identical to the chairs you find in almost every Greek cafe. However, they are not the best thing to have in a house full of fur people who just have to have something to vent their frustrations and sharpen their claws on. So, the chairs are now seatless - and this is an important point - until, one day, I plan to take them to a nearby carpenter to have wooden replacements made to fit.

Actually, the carpenter is a dream of a little "no job too small" place and everything is still made by hand. A while back I had them make me a piece to extend my desk. It was nicely made to measure and neatly finished in the time it took me to have a coffee in a nearby bar. Total cost under $4! You can see why I plan to go back.

So in the meantime, these skeleton chairs are laid on top of the wardrobe that doubles as the animal food storage cupboard. And, cats being cats, they are apt to jump up there to see if they can make an aerial assault on the contents.

Lesson #1 - Look up before you open cupboards.

As I opened the cupboard door as they lined up at feeding time, down falls one of the chairs that the little buggers had dislodged. No damage was done - to the chair - as it fell to the concrete floor, because something had broken it's fall midway.

My head mostly ... and my shoulders ... and my back.

I am bruised and hurt everywhere and had to spend most of the day lying flat.

Of course, it could have been a LOT worse, if the chair had the extra weight of a seat, or broke a bone or knocked me out. Or, heaven forbid, killed me!

I can handle the idea of being mauled to death by cats (well almost) - I expect a bit of that and have the scars to prove it - but I didn't expect to get bruised and battered as they stand by and watch while I cuss and scream in pain. And I swear they giggled.

Cup Of Antioxidants?

image "Remember when coffee was bad for you? Well, now it's good for you again. Current research by Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton shows that coffee provides more healthful antioxidants than any other food or beverage in the American diet."

Read on Cup Of Antioxidants?

Let's hope it does the same in other countries, so I can be certain I shall never go rusty. LOL! :)

Who can afford being poor?

image One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on a hillbilly farm of what he considered a very poor family.

On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?"

"It was great, Dad."

"Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked.

"Oh yeah," said the son.

"So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.

The son answered: "I saw that we have one dog and they had four.

We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.

We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.

Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.

We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.

We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.

We buy our food, but they grow theirs.

We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them."

The boy's father was speechless.

Then his son added,

"Are we going to be poor some day, when we can afford it?"

If only this were everyone's experience of poverty, but as I look out on mountain ranges, endless vine terraces and fields, free wild fruit of many kinds, proper fresh air and night skies filled with stars too, I am certainly glad I'm poor enough to enjoy this.

Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Excuse me, I'm on the other end

image Got a dog that pulls on the lead? Holly is no where near as bad as she was, but in all the 10 years she's been with me, she has never quite grasped the fact that someone - usually me - is on the other end of the lead and thinks she can still hurtle off anywhere.

It's even funnier on the odd occasion when my mother has taken the reigns, because she lets the dog set the pace and my mum's little legs keep moving faster and faster like some cartoon character, while I tell her, "Stop her for goodness sake! You are in charge."

It's simple to cure, as Andrew Chastney, author of Dog Training Blueprint, explains:

"One of the simplest ways is just to stand still every time your dog tries to pull. No need to haul it about or get into some sort of tug of war. Dog moves forward - you stop. When the dog quietens down start walking again. The moment the dog tries to pull forward you just stop still again. Over and over again. The dog will soon realise it's never going to get anywhere unless it walks quietly beside you ..."

Humans are SO MUCH harder to train than dogs, I have observed!

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Blue Balu

You just have to laugh at the lad's dignified pose, all standing upright and to attention. This is Balu, pictured still partially wet after a bath. If you look very closely on the right hand side of his ruff, you will see that it is still a little blue. Before the bath (and a lot of undignified scrubbing), he was pale blue everywhere you can now see white, because he'd been playing (most likely rolling about) around the vines that had recently been dusted with blue powder (to stop rot). Sister Kitty (pictured right) deserves to have a lie down. The lazy little chump (this is normal for Balu: he will never get his own furballs) let her do all the licking to get him this dry!

Genetic Mutants

So the 'life code' of chimps has been laid bare, report the BBC and a comparison shows chimps and humans to be almost 99% identical in the most important areas of their "life codes".

We knew that, of course! (See illustration.)

Now that the search is on to discover what makes us human, scientists are focusing on the differences. For instance, they say, "Humans, seem to have lost a functioning caspase-12 gene, which may protect other animals against Alzheimer's disease."

So, if you've forgotten where you put your bananas, chances are you are NOT a chimp!

And, rather than "intelligent design", a lost gene sounds to me like some genetic screw up. Could that be it, humans are just an accidental mutation?


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