I can’t vouch for the accuracy of everything in the article linked below, but I believe it is definitely worth a look.


I knew there was only one layer of bricks, so how hard could it be?

Four layers of crossed 1″ boards provided some resistance to the 4″ masonry core bit, as it doesn’t cut wood. It quickly became clear that the part I hadn’t anticipated, the cutting of wood within the wall, would be the real task here.

A 5″ el Cheapo hole cutter made it through the first two layers of wood, a 7/8 ash baseboard and an inch of hemlock, with only a few trips to the shop for blacksmith work. My $25. Princess Auto 1/2″ drill worked reasonably well for the wood butchering. But then came a cavity and the hole cutter couldn’t reach the boards on the other side, so I resorted to a brand new foot-long 7/16″ auger bit mounted in the drill. It cut through the hemlock with alacrity, and Bet had handed me a penlite flash so I could see.

I peppered the boards with holes, hoping something would give before the rented drill bit was due back in the morning. A brand new 5/8″ chisel even took a lick at the stubborn wood, driven by a claw-hammer, no less. Such was my desperation.

I should specify that conditions were very cramped in the corner of the laundry room behind the washer and dryer. Things improved considerably when Bet brought a fan to cool things off.

Eventually the wood turned to splinters which I picked out with my fingers. The rented 4″ core cutter on a 12″ extension, coupled with my friend’s heavy duty hammer drill, went to work on the brick. I kept checking for a light at the end of the tunnel, and eventually a tiny one appeared in the centre of the hole, so I hauled the massive drill/bit/extension combination out onto the roof and plugged into the fancy 110 outlet currently in service up there in case I need to plug in any Christmas lights or de-icing equipment.

I was quietly pleased to note that the hole was in the correct place, so I completed the cut from outside and did not fall off the roof, then slid the assembled dryer vent back in from the outside. Four small screws, a couple of cans of foam (wide gap filler) and the new dryer vent should be in operation.


It’s a clever and catchy protest song and it cost an Ottawa scientist his job. Expect to hear it a lot over the next two months.



Instead of my usual couple of hours of indolent reading this morning I resolved to collect a trailer-load of scaffold to erect for a job at the rear of the stone house.

After carefully wiping the dew and dust off my beloved 17 hp Bolens G174, I fired it up and hurried around to the front of the house through a narrow gate on a steep side-hill. Somehow it slipped my mind for the moment that the attached trailer was eight feet wide and weighed about as much as the little tractor. It reminded me of these principles of physics and geometry when one corner of the trailer discovered a forgotten elm stump. Contact with this sturdy object immediately stopped the right side of the trailer’s forward progress. Whatever remained of the trailer’s momentum was then imparted to its tongue, which veered sharply to the right. Of course the tongue was attached by a 2″ ball to the tall, narrow little tractor on a side hill, so it obligingly flipped over, sending its operator on an exhilarating nose-first slide down a well-kept, but steep lawn. In the same motion the Bolens wiggled its hitch ball out of the trailer’s coupler and came to rest upside down, purring contentedly. Your narrator scrambled back up the hill and shut the engine off.

I was unhurt, and the Bolens didn’t seem to have bent anything I couldn’t readily straighten. It remained, however, upside down at a 3/4 cant on a fairly steep slope.
After some reflection I drafted the Kubota B7510, a 4WD, 21 hp compact tractor to aid its fallen comrade. I parked it nose-down toward the Bolens, then attached a logging chain to its front hitch and the other end around the near axle of the accident victim. My wife eased the Kubota back up the slope in 4WD and the Bolens flipped over onto its wheels as willingly as it had left them.

We coasted down to a low spot and I assessed the damage. One sheet metal brace for hydraulic controls bent back into shape. That was it. The loose hood a survived the fall amazingly well, and the engine didn’t leak oil, coolant, or fuel. It wouldn’t turn over on the starter, though.

I had anticipated hydraulic lock, a diesel phenomenon whereby a cylinder fills with fluid and can’t release the fluid to turn over because it’s on the compression stroke. When the engine was upside-down, crankcase oil had nothing to keep it from flowing down through any open valve into the cylinders.

The Kubota and my wife towed us up the hill to the garage, but not inside, fortunately.

A quick Internet search suggested removing the glow plugs to let the oil out of the affected cylinder, so I dutifully found a 12mm socket with extension, removed the little plugs (only one wet with engine oil), and prepared to clear the cylinders. I carefully placed a rag over the twin openings in the top of the engine to keep things tidy, but at the first touch of the starter a narrow gush of black oil shot the rag high above the tractor before turning its propellant into a comic deluge of large, black dollops of oil.

This provided a great way to break in a too-new Tilley, but the clean-up of the equipment and wardrobe afterward quickly became a chore.

The 1980 Bolens soon was back at work, down a bit of oil and very dirty, but still willing to do a day’s work.


So far in the Duffy Trial and the federal election campaign we have learned that there are lots of principled people in the inner circle of the Conservative Party, but theirs is an private code of ethics which bears little resemblance to that of the rest of us, so last week when Stephen Harper tried to borrow a bit of scout’s honour for a photo-op, Scouts Canada protested loudly at the intrusion.

For me the narrative which best makes sense of the Conservatives this year is the final season of Sons of Anarchy, the unexpectedly brilliant TV show about a California motorcycle gang which ran for seven years on US cable.

Its protagonist is an intelligent man on an oblique, personal task, required by circumstance to navigate an ethical maze while torn between a desire to free his family from this violent, fetid world, and the irresistible appeal of extreme conflict.

Seen in the context of this tragic drama there was much to admire in Nigel Wright’s testimony this week during the Duffy trial, as was there in Donald Bayne’s defence of the accused Duffy. We watched as Bernard Perrin’s testimony worked its way to the forefront of our consciousness and we realized that the hand of fate now rests upon the shoulder of trusted Harper aide Ray Novak.

Who will be next? We wait for the action to move to the next scene which must deal with the cornered Harper, confronted by the evidence of his monomania, forced to realize his wrong and to bow before our judgement, frightful in his suffering.

That’s the tragic view.

But Shakespeare liked to throw in a steady diet of comedy to keep us on our toes. Who better to play the Chorus than the increasingly put-out National Post correspondent Christie Blatchford, who in daily standups from a hotel lobby heaps ridicule upon the whole charade because she is bored?

And then last Tuesday Earl Cowan strode upon the stage. Shakespeare’s grave-digger had nothing on this guy for comedic chops. Of course the grave-digger’s faulty logic and very limited understanding caused Hamlet and the audience to laugh. Well, Earl played the Angry Conservative to perfection when he told off reporters Hannah Thibedeau and Laurie Graham for asking the wrong questions of Stephen Harper. According to Earl, Duffy had fudged his tax returns a little bit, but no less than the reporters. “Harper doesn’t read tax forms, you idiot! It’s done by people in the tax department. You cheat more on your taxes than Duffy ever did. You’re a lying piece of shit!”

But from this low comedy we quickly moved to a higher concept with the regal Margaret Atwood penning a few reflections on Hair for the National Post, only to react in pique when someone censored her lines. Years ago Brian Mulroney learned his lesson when Atwood famously addressed the Free Trade Debate (back in the pre-Harper era when there was public discourse on such things). She explained to her audience that the official Canadian animal is the beaver. Then she read from a medieval bestiary that the beaver is a rodent which, when threatened, bites off its own testes and presents them as a gift to prevent further harm. She likened this to Canada’s position in the free trade talks.

Anyway, it seems that the Conservative directors of the National Post got wind of the Hair column and ordered it taken down from their website. Atwood tweeted, “I think the National Post has censored me.” Perturbation on Twitter. The Google version of the column quickly went viral. National Post put up a revised version which removed Atwood’s allegations about two million dollars of undisclosed funding in Harper’s leadership campaign. This spawned a series of articles explaining what happened to cause a puff piece about Trudeau and Harper’s hairdos to turn into a frontal attack on the credibility of the National Post.

The four lessons of the week from this ongoing drama? You can’t borrow Scout’s honour for a photo op, the first lesson of crisis management is that you never lie, don’t let Canadians put a face to the Conservative Base, and under no circumstances do you mess with Margaret Atwood.

In the last week Etobicoke farmer Earl Cowan has emerged as this election’s “Joe-the-Plumber.” I thought you might enjoy these pearls of wisdom collected by fellow blogger Dennis Earl:

Angry Con


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