Stories from emails.
A day before yesterday I felt myself almost a sanitary technician - I changed the faucet in the kitchen. Of course difficult works should be done by professionals. But unscrewing a few bolts and changing two hoses is not what I may call "a difficult work" and any normal guy should be able to do simple works at home (one of my stereotypes).
The first attempt happened a few days ago when I found out that the very old type faucet is connected with a very large diameter nut and even my adjustable spanner is not big enough for it. So now I was armed with bigger "gas" spanner.
Also I had my brother. Its always good to have someone for "hold and bring" purposes, it saves a lot of time often. My brother usually has limited initiative about improving things but he is fine when has a "starting push" and so worked normal because he thought that I know what to do. Me myself had the clear understanding of work: 1)unmount the old faucet 2)mount the new faucet. Though I had a very little idea how to achieve both purposes.
Unscrewing the old faucet was worth a saga. Revolving a nut for 10 minutes to understand that its just rotating and is not supposed to be detached at all brought to the world a lot of nouns and adjectives that defined the nut from many unexpected sides. Rust and dirt on our fingers were given its own names too.
The satanic genius of unknown Soviet engineers had brought to the world the real masterpiece of dark art. If I had been a Jedi Knight I would have been overwhelmed with the dark side of the Force and became a Darth Technician with laser spanner for sure. And no any f#$%ing Skywalker would be a problem for me after that faucet!.. *cough-cough* A little divertisement, sorry.
Mounting the new faucet was rather dull though - German quality and no any enormous screws made the process not so interesting. So after I connected hoses I just kicked the small pile of old rusty trash on the floor and said "finally..." Though this "finally" actually was a 2 minutes long phrase using a lot of explicit words. My brother agreed with me with a similar 3 minutes long phrase.
So another day wasn't lived in vain.
A Saturday story.
About stereotypes, car, GPS, evil vacuum cleaner and beating something out of something. Includes a part about computer program.
Saturday is a special day. The work is over and the next work starts after a long time... i.e. the day after tomorrow, that's exactly what I mean - almost the eternity. Since I woke up I decided to do something socially good. I'm making socially good things during recent time - I "kick" my mother and brother to throw away thrash and make the flat a better place. One of visible results was standing in my room - a new vacuum cleaner delivered yesterday: a water filter Karcher 5500 (certainly with "vex" index that shows it has a turbo brush and of a yellow color that shows its made in Germany). The deadly device was craving to be tested but it was too early yet so some neighbors might be sleeping and once I read a funny theory that neighbors are also people. Of course its ridiculous but even a ridiculous theory may contain a few grains of truth so instead I decided to go to a supermarket first. My brother has a car so I went to offer him this idea. My brother is a rather easy going in question of social improvements in the flat if he has a leader who takes all the responsibility and planning on himself. Since planning was on my side it didn't take a long time to convince him and so we went towards Moscow with me at a wheel. At this point I have to explain that although I don't need a car for going around but I have my stereotypes and one of them is that a normal guy must be able to drive so I use any opportunity for practice. We didn't go there before on a car (the car is a recent buy) so my brother took my GPS. At this point I have to explain again that it seems a typical trait that we use things that the other one doesn't. I bought external bluetooth GPS, checked it, thought its funny and left it and my brother used it much more often than I did.
In this particular situation when we weren't there before and especially with me at a wheel (not more than 10-15 hours of actual practice of driving the real road in whole life) my brother took GPS probably thinking that he will have to find a way back from the North Pole. We also wrote a list because its useful if your memory leaks like a paper bag used as a target for shotgun loaded with small shots number 9. And so we went. The road was quiet easy. Even a kid could get understand it. It went: "10 km forward, then turn right and then right again." Also my brother was double checking the road signs and traffic lights with me (the same as I do when he drives because he has approximately the same driving experience as me).
Finally we reached that big store where you can buy anything from food and flower pots to computers and car parts, loaded the trolley keeping a conversation like: "Ok, try to remember what we need because I know that when we went home we will remember that we forgot to buy some fucking thing". - "yeah, no doubts about that." We loaded the trolley with the names from the list and went home. There was some crappy turn back different from the road there so GPS was useful. It helped me to release the psychological tense. While I was driving trying to get sense from signs it was mumbling something like "after 150 meters turn right" at the moment when I was looking at the current road with 2 possible ways and making the quick decision where to turn to. Surely in such moments of saying something about 150 meters ahead its a great relief to be able to say "shut the fuck up, you devil's device". What would I do without it? Probably would get very nervous. So I was driving, telling the device what I think of it and with such great support immediately found the way back to the road home. A usual traffic jam was on the road but its typical for here. If your average speed is more than 20 km per hour it doesn't count as traffic jam at all. So we went home and it was time to test the horrible vacuum cleaner.
Since I'm a kind of maximalist sometimes I decided not to stop and make a big socially good kicking to the whole room in general. I removed the couch cover to wash it. Thought that if I do it anyway its no sense to stop and also the the blanket to wash it too. Then I made a general check for the shelves leaving only the necessary things and the field for fighting dust was ready. Because surely every battle device should be tested in a field with full ammo and preferably on live targets. I filled the vacuum cleaner filter with water, added anti-foam and the fun began. What is fun with this water filter is to look at what you pour out after use. After that view you start to take cleaning room much seriously because the knowledge that you breath with THIS makes people with imagination sick. Fortunately I don't have imagination and its very hard to impress me (everyone knows that I may be really impressed only with view of a good ass and tits which obviously have nothing in common with some water filter). After that I took a ladder and went to bravely fight dust on high shelves with my own hands.
After completing that task I made a short pause to work with weights because I have a stereotype that a normal guy must have normal muscles. I had a sore throat so I missed 2 days of exercises and it was extremely shitty because the main idea was to work every day.
The fight with dust on shelves was successful and it was the queue of the couch cover and the blanket. First I went outside to beat the dust out of them with a special plastic slapper. First I wanted to take a baseball bat because I have a stereotype that beating anything out of anybody requires something heavy. But this was not a very useful stereotype possibly because it wasn't "anybody" so I left the bat for a more suitable case and started to beat the dust out. That was... dusty... But it worked and I only felt pity for poor girls who missed the view of my great biceps because I was in a sleeveless shirt. A couple of old men passing by hardly could appreciate it and a few men drinking beer 50 meters away were too busy with beer.
I returned home, loaded blanket into a washing machine, went to work with weight a bit more and then loaded a simple program for setting furniture in the kitchen for my mother. My mother always say me I should "design" a kitchen thinking that magic word "design" can solve anything. So I said that there are simple design program and if its such a magic she can do it herself. She has time because she is retired and learning such things is surely better than playing mahjong.
I particulary liked this day, it was lived well according to all my stereotypes.
Imagine a room. A room possibly in a state of repair - half the furniture lays in ruins and floor is a layer of stuff like old clothes in bags and mysterious pots you often can find in old boxes [some things no one remembers to be buying so it can open a discussion about occult matter of some old boxes and that everything does exist somewhere and an old box is a nice place to exist without calling unwanted attention from all sorts of scientists]. The layer on the floor is mixed with a couple of assembly foam balloons, some dry cement in plastic bottle and miscellaneous pieces of thin wooden beams. In the middle of this all lays a long box with hand lawn trimmer in it.
The room has a door to a balcony. The door is not fully closed and some noise goes out from there. Then the door opens and a person appears. The figure looks like it was heavy snowing on the balcony and big white flakes are everywhere on his clothes and even on his head. The figure shakes the flakes off him but instead of highly expected cheerful "ho-ho-ho" puts away a knife from his hand and says "fucking polystyrene".
This figure is me.
What can I say about an itch to improve things when no one around really shares this itch? Only that it's a very ungrateful business. [Its like you went to a shop a long way away for a bag of candies and when return you hear "good boy, you may take one candy" under accompaniment of everyone industrially chewing the candies you've just brought. Also someone will always ask you why it took so much time and someone else will complain you brought the wrong kind of candies.] But anyone with such inconvenient itch must be ready for ungratefulness and dumb advices and the way out is quite simple. It can be put in one short sentence: "if you can do better go ahead otherwise don't fuck my mind."
So I was telling how I was cutting polystyrene for balcony thermal insulation. If there is any sculptor that works with polystyrene I wish to look at him. Cutting is easy but it produces a lot of small pieces of foam float around. Also a large part of balcony floor was covered in red drops of waterproof paint. One corner of the ceiling has a tendency to leak during rain so I decided to improve it. Since I never had a deal with such things (and in general my building skills were limited by computer modeling) I just went to a building supermarket, found a suitable shelf and started to read labels. When I read "this waterproof can be used under tiles in swimming pools" I immediately thought "aha, it's my size". [I'm a kind of person who might go to buy a brick and will return with a 20 kilogram concrete block, and it will be not because of megalomania but because it's just "more reliable"] So the balcony looks brutal enough, but the story is not about it. The story is about kitchen and mostly about kitchen exhaust hood.
There wasn't any exhaust hood in my kitchen which was a major drawback during years. Since the kitchen is rather small it always had been hot in there so my itch to improve things was not just metaphorically protested but metaphorically went on strike, broke a few windows and blocked a few roads. And so I went to a big supermarket with building things named Leroy Merlin [probably named after some builder like McDonald's is named after clown Ronald McDonald so I already imagine a medieval street and a pathetic Musketeer being bashed over the head with a lead pipe by a stylish-looking Frenchman shouting: "touche, mon ami! Je will teach tu not to merde missing the toilet!"]
Of course the world can't exist without "advisers" and it was my mother. "Do you know what you will buy?" - "Low price hoods are all the same" - "Have you measured everything?" - "What exactly?" - "Everything! Do you know where you will hang it?" - "Yes, I do know - over the stove." - "But is there enough place?" - "Yes, there is the whole wall." - "And do you think it will work fine?" - "I don't know" - "Then how can you buy anything if you don't know if it will work?" - "I buy to see if it will work. Am very curious, can't sleep because of constantly thinking - will it work or no, so I decided to buy and see." - "Other people think and measure everything before doing anything." - "If you can do better go ahead." - "I just say that you can organize…" - "I organize as I can. If you can organize better go ahead."
Extend such chat 10 times in similar lines and you will get the approximate idea of my communication with my mother.
So I bought an exhaust hood and square tubes to move air into ventilation system. Of course the cheap hood didn't include screws for hanging it so next day I went for the local market to get some. I phoned to my friend to ask about screws and he told me approximate length. Looking at the big number of boxes with different sized screws of all kinds I thought a bit but since I strongly believe that if you think a lot you tend to lose hair, I just bought 3 different pairs of the needed length. Kitchen wall brought another surprise - I was afraid that my mighty screwdriver may not be able to drill holes in it and I will need even mightier perforator but drilling old bricks was like poking hot knife through butter which wasn't very good if you think that it should hold quite a weight. Nevertheless after spending a bit of time and a large amount of explicit language I managed to mount the hood. And brought the square pipes for air duct… to find out the hole into ventilation is too narrow. Once again I said many words to the unknown heroes of building which build my house many years ago. If some of the most honest wishes had come true they would have to spend some hard time trying to get out big square pipes from indeed very dark places.
But I'm not a person who gets easily depressed. Quite on the contrary, I think that it's stupid to moan that something is big if you have a saw or that something is not flat if you have a large enough hammer. So I took a saw for metal and cut away the part of tube I can't shove into the duct. This process however took much more time and explicit language because I found out that it's harder to cut thin metal because the saw always stuck. But finally I have won, shoved a much shorter length into duct, attached other parts and found out that 4-5 cm are not enough (not because I saw them off, mind, they were missing in another direction). At this part I even didn't use much of explicit language because I always expect such things.
Next day I went to the local market for a simple corrugated tube. Of course its not as pathetic as square metallic tubes but it also works. The duct was still too small but the frame around it was wooden so I took a saw, made a few cuts and then used a chisel and a hammer to chop a few pieces. The duct entrance had a look as if some monster tried to break in but since it will be covered anyway I didn't care much. Cover was a bit of a problem. It had 4 holes for screws but 2 of them would be in brick and 2 in the wooden frame [symmetry is for idiots anyway]. So I behaved as the professional builder: I said "bugger this" and made four holes not changing the drill from special for concrete to special for wood. [Professional builders care about time and if two small holes in wood can be easily made by a concrete drill then why bother? Some explicit language also helps] The system seemed to be installed but there still was a small crack between the cover and the wall [considering the amount of wall flatness plus frame flatness minus screws plus old concrete… in general I was lucky the crack weren't so wide]
Luckily I had a balloon of silicone sealant. It surely already caused all kinds of jokes about opening plastic surgery clinic to make big silicone boobs. But this time I was alone at home so it wasn't interesting to joke like that so I just filled the cracks with sealant. But then I thought that I may do something useful before balloon gets dry so I went to fill cracks between glass and frames on the balcony. The balloon was big enough… the balcony too… in the end I already started to think in the lines: "who invented such a dumb handle?" because from the constant applying of pressure my hand started to ache. So now half the balcony has cracks sealed and another half has thermal insulation and in the kitchen there is an exhausting hood with a hi-tech looking corrugated aluminium pipe into the air duct. [And it all looks so stylish that no one asked me after: "why did you use brown sealant if the cover is white?"]
My stereotypes had won again because I think that any normal guy must be able to hang simple machinery on to the walls. After all its almost the same as hanging shelves on a wall and even a complete amateur can hang shelves. And if something doesn't fit a normal guy is not afraid to use saw, chisel and hammer or else what is the point of having them?
P.S. I also bought a small polishing machine made by my favorite Makita and in some ways its even better than a hammer… people are already hiding.
A story with many morals and a few footnotes.
Today I will tell you a story about mighty perforator, builder's thinking and the art of never panic.
The story had started with start of room repair. Repairing rooms can be fast and easy but mostly its not. It often contains apathy and passion, love and hate are being mixed in a fabulous cocktail, lives are combined and break up, strangers feel like brothers and close people have wild quarrels. Fate itself walks around with a hammer and a screwdriver looking for what can be mended.
The ceiling and walls in the room were fixed by a house painter 
and were getting dry very slowly so it was time to think about electricity.
The "specialist" who was invited tried to be smart at me. But being smart at me rarely works because I'm a famous for being a smartass myself. The dialog was like: He:
- And you should change everything because wires in the walls are aluminium and it can't be connected with copper.
- Yeah, they are thermopair, so you have to use steel connector. By the way will you use PVS 3*2.5 wires?
- Eh... yes.
- Though for light it may be enough 3*1.5
- Though personally I prefer to use 2.5 anyway. And I don't need inside sockets so you leave wires and I will install outer sockets myself.
 Such names can cause a confusion though. Someone may think its
some specialized kind of artist who mostly paints houses on canvas.
It happens a lot with body art artists when they are being referred
as "nude painters" in the same way as "house painters" and being
mistaken as being in the same club with naked writers.
And he asked for too much money for this work in my opinion. So I thought "what the fuck?" and decided to do it myself. Anyway electricity is in my list of things that a normal guy must be able to do and so I just added to the list making cuts in the walls for hiding wires. On a nice Sunday morning I took my brother's car and went to a shop. People went away from Moscow on Saturday so there weren't many cars on roads (means that all cars move with the speed they want to, its very rare here, mostly our road a big traffic jam). I like the ring road around Moscow, its wide and noone cares about speed limits, even traffic cops themselves. So passing limit signs 100 km/h at 130 and being left behind by cars that went 150-160 I went to a shop that sells my favorite Makita drills and perforators. With my new toy HR2470 I returned home and decided to test it.
Wearing protective glasses, a mask against dust and earphones I use for shotgun shooting I started to work. And it turned out to be rather easy. All you have to do is to start a perforator (it makes rrrrrr) and press it a little against a wall. It makes "BRR-GRRR-DRRR!!! and a little piece of wall disappears in a cloud of dust. So wall wasn't interesting anymore and I tried ceiling.
That was tough so I made a hole near the wall and started to think how they dragged wires to the ceiling lamp 
After 2 hours of using different methods I finally succeeded. Everything would be fine but my mother were spreading panic as usual in a style "what will we do?" and even worse never-ending non-stop crap like "But they do it somehow, what do you think? They drag wires, right? So we can do it to. What can be wrong there? Maybe the hole is blocked somehow? What will we do? If we hired people they would do it somehow, right? Some wires are already there now, right? So the new ones shouldn't be a problem. But something is obviosly wrong because it doesn't work, right?" But I was calm because in my experience 3/4 of all problems are being solved themselves and 1/4 are unsolvable by default.
 There are people who think that action is primary and thinking
is secondary. They may stay at a newly drilled hole in a wall and
wonder why they've done it. Inventing deep reasons to explain to
other people holes in walls and Christmas trees nailed to a ceiling
develops their imagination and gain them the image of interesting
and very forward-thinking persons.
Surely in the end I had wire hung from the lamp hole in the ceiling and another end was in my newly drilled hole. That proved again that there is no sense to worry at all. There could be 2 finals: I might succeed and I might not succeed. Both cases weren't any tragedy so why worry? People are strange because they invent themselves things to worry about and then complain they have nerves tensed like ropes in a scientific research "I wonder if these ropes can hold an elephant?"
Shortly: I made cuts in the walls and placed wires in special plastic flexible tubes inside. My mother occasionally came to ask if I need help. Sometimes I would like another pair of hands but its hard to work with my mother because she starts to spread panic at every minor problem. Since I never did such work before there were a lot of minor stops when I needed to think. And who likes to be buggered in such moments with something like: "What can we do? What shall we do now? Do tell! Why don't you tell anything?! Tell me what to do!" When I don't tell what to do its my fault but if I tell what to do I immediately start to receive "valuabe advices". So the best thing is to work alone or with my brother, he has similar attitude as me about not worrying about chickenshit.
Next was getting rid of 2 old sockets, leaving only one for things like perforator.
I decided to immure them and when finish normal wires just cut the base so I will have only walls with old wires inside which do nothing. But now they were under voltage so needed some careful handling. Working around them with a perforator doesn't count if you don't cut them causing a short circuit, though this possibility adds up some warm feeling.  One socket wasn't a problem, I isolated two end with tape and filled it with assembly foam. And another one made me think. There were 4 wires parallelly connected in pairs. I thought a bit, went to the main switches outside flat, turned off everything, and isolated all 4 wires. To find out that the third socket also doesn't work and so the socket in another room. And then I understood the real builder's thinking. Really - why making a split in a wire if you don't use a flexible container? For 2 wires you would need a bigger container and without containers you can just put them both in a wall and close with cement.
 Some dangerous possibilities can certainly cause a warm feeling
and sometimes (in a case if this possibility comes true) a warm feeling may happen in the pants.
But if you work with usual wires with one hand and don't stand in a pool of water and don't
hold heater with another hand the worst can happen is a nice hit but nothing deadly.
Looking at the room from this point of view I immediately understood that some things weren't nonsense as I thought but were rather smart ways of avoiding work in a way "it works and if you decide to change something its your problem". That was the real builder's thinking and I felt like reached a catharsis and saw the roots of things, the little wheels of the clockwork that makes the universe spin 
 Its unwise to think that this clockwork looks like something
very complicated. Similary, people spend 10 years at school and then
5 in a college learning things that are supposed to be useful
for their future work just to find out in the end that the adult
life's work on 90% consists of tries to avoid any work at all. The
clockwork of Universe is not so much a clockwork as a random number
generator so people who are searching The Meaning Of This All had
better chances to win 10 billion dollars in lottery than to
So I've done with it. Electricity is easy and learning it was very enlightning. A word of wisdom in the end: never panic, it only make things worse.