Category Archives: Utilities

The Artisan and the Lady

tradesmen are not good at listening

‘it’s finished…..’

Yet again I’ve been faced with examples of men who work with their hands treating female customers badly.  I’m never surprised when I hear that some garage mechanic hasn’t done whatever it was a woman has asked them to fix on her car.  Nor am I shocked if a car shop has done something very badly, half a job, and then charged their lady customer three times the going rate for a proper job.

I have heard tales of half-assed plumbers totally flooding a female friend’s home, making the place uninhabitable for months.  I’ve seen electrical work done so badly that a woman was lucky not to have her home burn down around her, and building work that was an utter joke.  The same goes for bathroom and kitchen fitters, gardeners, roofers…..  all of them do shoddy work for women and then overcharge them for it.

The thing is that the average tradesman learns a trade, (if you’re lucky), but never learns interpersonal skills ~ they do not listen.  Most tradesmen are very bad at their jobs ~ face it, most car mechanics are only car mechanics because it’s a step up from flipping burgers.  Almost all tradesmen learn how to do one thing, and never learn anything else.  In general, men who work with their hands are lazy, goof off at every opportunity, are sexist, misogynistic, and lecherous.  Add in to the mix that many so called ‘tradesmen’ are immigrant casual day labourers, who have never actually learned a trade, and you have a recipe for disaster for any woman who wants anything fixed, serviced, repaired, fettled, or built.

All women should be suspicious of mechanics, plumbers, electricians, roofers, gardeners, builders, kitchen and bathroom fitters…..  and you should never, ever leave them alone in your home, not for an instant.  Always ask to see their appropriate qualifications, on paper, there are trade associations for every single damn trade.  For example; here every gas fitter is obliged to be ‘Gas Safe Registered’ and show their customers their registration number.  Never ever employ a tradesman or use a garage based solely on the recommendation of a friend ~ look them up on the internet.  Always thoroughly check their work, or better still get a competent male friend to check their work before handing over any money.  Better than that, learn some basic trade skills yourself.

Some say that they trust their gardener / plumber / electrician / car mechanic.  And that it’s impolite to think they might have done a shoddy job.  All I know is that I don’t trust tradesmen, and I’m a very competent guy.

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

this isn’t finished

 

90% of Contractors Suck

do not ever pay for work that isn’t done right and completed on time

what the Arc would have looked like if Noah had used a contractor

Stop letting contractors screw you over.  There is NO excuse for work that isn’t done right, finished on budget, and completed on time.  I’ve heard it again and again that some contractor totally fucked up a job, or charged far too much, or did work that didn’t need doing, left an utter mess behind them after they finished, caused far more damage than they were asked to come in and fix, never finished the job at all, didn’t do the job they were asked to do, or didn’t even turn up…..

This is not a new story for me, so why am I bothering to flog this comatose horse?  Well a couple of friends of mine, and another couple of nice people whose blogs I follow, have all had problems with contractors in the past few days.  In my expert opinion 90% of contractors of every ilk from decorators, to plumbers, to electricians, to garage mechanics, to moving men et al, are utterly useless, partly skilled, dishonest, lazy, misogynistic jerks.

So how to avoid being totally ripped off?

  • Do not hire a contractor based on somebody else’s unsupported recommendation.  Especially do not hire anyone recommended by another contractor; say your realtor.
  • Do not ever, ever hire a friend, or a friend of a friend, to do ANY work for you.
  • Do not ever hire a contractor without first having a totally clear picture of the work you want doing, when you want it done by, how much you are going to pay, and when.  If you don’t know any of this stuff, GO AWAY AND FIND OUT!
  • Do not ever hire a contractor who can’t show you a current copy of their appropriate certification, and customer references.  Check these out, and never just by making a phone call.
  • Do not hire a contractor who can’t give you a firm written quote, on a proper letter-head.  If possible get three quotes, (if it’s a big job then you must have at least two firm quotations)
  • Do not ever pay a contractor before they have started work, and never ever pay them in full until the work is completed to your satisfaction.  Agree stage payments if appropriate.  Go over everything your contractor has done with a fine tooth comb.  Your word is the final word!
  • Do not ever, ever allow an unsupervised contractor into your property. And, ensure they are watched over 100% of the time thereafter.
  • DO NOT hire day rate illegal aliens under any circumstances.  And don’t hire anyone who isn’t fluent in your language.
  • Learn some DIY stuff.  Learn a hell of a lot of DIY stuff.  It is always easier, cheaper, and better to do the job yourself than hire some utterly useless, partly skilled, dishonest, lazy, misogynistic jerk to do the work for you.  And if you have some idea about how to actually do a bit of say; decorating, then you are in a far better position to control your idiot contractor.
  • Finally; do not be a woman.  All contractors think women are easy marks.  If you are a woman then follow the suggestions above with the utmost regard.

This is your job, your money, your home, your safety.  If your plumber floods your home, your electrician sets fire to your home, or you home just blows up……  then ultimately it is YOUR fault.  Do not let ANYONE tell you how you should go about dealing with a contractor.  (except me)

Some say that they have had a really good contractor.  And that not all contractors are bad.  All I know is that anyone who says they have had one good contractor will also have had three utter disasters.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

some decorators can’t even varnish a floor without making a mess of it

Living Alone With Dignity

Life is a pigsty, and if you don’t know this, then what do you know?

I was just 18 when I first left home.  I bought myself a slightly neglected bungalow.  (In England a bungalow is a single-story dwelling, (it helps when your first job is being a banker)).  Hallway, reception room, 2 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen ~ and every room needed redecorating.  The kitchen especially looked like something from the WWII era.  In fact the kitchen looked like WWII had been fought in there.

There was central heating that didn’t work, and an Edison-vintage electrical system that did, although technically the lights were so dim they were darks.  I had my clothes, two pieces of furniture that I stole from my folk’s place, (a beach chair and a mattress), my music, a tin plate and some cutlery.

The bungalow was close enough to the bank that I could walk in about 45 minutes.  I sold my sports car, an Austin-Healey Sprite, bought a Reliant Robin three-wheeler van, and tried to work out what else I needed to buy with my sudden small stash of cash.

With cash burning a hole in your pocket there is always the temptation to buy things that will give you instant gratification, more records for example…..  Well I gave in to a little of that and got myself a TV.  The rest of the stuff I bought was more practical; a washer / dryer, some tools, an oven, bed linen, brushes and paint, cleaning cloths….. stuff like that.

Ripping out the entire kitchen was messy but satisfying ~ and the little van was useful for taking all the wreckage to the city dump.  That thing did hundreds of miles on a teaspoon of petrol, (gas), and all the time I had it I never even opened the hood ~ of course eventually the poor thing fell apart.  Later I learned about car mechanics, regular maintenance, giving love, care, and attention to everyone and everything in my life.

My life was pretty good until I had almost finished my professional examinations ~ then I experimented with dating.  My first girl was older, curvy, blonde, great legs, and before I knew where I was she was leaving her stuff at my place and taking over.  That first time living alone taught me three great lessons;

  1. Don’t spend money you haven’t got.
  2. Nobody is allowed into my place.
  3. Do everything for yourself.

As well as building a new kitchen I made all the furniture for that place.  I still have some of it; decades later.

Some say you should never wrestle with an amoral woman.  And, that if you do, you will get dirty.  All I know is that she will like it.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Reliant Robin

one of the worst cars in the world

The Electric Car Chimera

a thing which is hoped for but is illusory and impossible to achieve

Tesla Model S ~ from £81,200.00

Whenever the political establishment gets involved in anything to do with transport they fuck it up in a big way.  The latest monumental fuck-up by the British Government is to propose to ban sales of all new diesel, petrol, and hybrid cars from 2035.  This is in an attempt to meet a carbon-neutral target, which in itself is pointless as it’s designed to tackle the non-existent problem of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, (man-made global warming).

You heard right, in the UK from 2035 you will only be able to buy a plug-in electric car.  This is going to be the most monumental disaster to hit Great Britain since WWII.

There are 32.5 million cars on the road in Britain today, of which less than 40,000 all electric cars were sold in 2019.  Leaving aside the myriad of other problems to do with electric vehicles and consider instead the issue of charging these damn white elephants.

Currently there are only 15,500 public charging points for electric cars in the UK.  Assuming that lots of people will want to charge their electric car when they are at work, shopping, and doing what we are wont to call living a normal life, then maybe another 20 or 25 million charging points will be needed.  These charging points are damn expensive, to install one means digging up the road, laying cables, and connecting to the local electricity network.  If this is to work at all it means the next 15 years will see British roads dug up like never before ~ how much carbon will all those diesel trucks, backhoes, road rollers, compressors et al produce?  How much disruption is there going to be?  We don’t have enough of all that stuff anyway.

It’s actually much, much worse than that.  Everyone gets home at night, and the first thing they do is plug their electric car into their home charging point, and the local electrical grid collapses because it’s not designed or built to take that kind of load on top of everything else.  So we fix that at vast expense and more digging up of roads.

That just pushes the problem up the chain until it hits the National Grid, which will collapse because it’s not designed or built to take that huge additional load.  So we fix that.  And every power station in the country trips out, and there is no electricity at all, across all of the UK.

To fix that we would have to build another 20 gigawatts of generating capacity, and that’s doubling the amount of all the electricity generated in the UK, and it will have to be instantly available electricity, which rules out wind and solar power.  It will have to be 20 gigawatts of nuclear and fossil fuel power.  It’s back to coal and oil again.

It’s madness.

Some say this is our last chance to save the planet.  And we should all be green, clean, and carbon neutral.  All I know is that the sky isn’t falling.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

there is no viable substitute for coal

Stress #4 ~ Money Trouble

being in control of your finances is a great stress reliever

Next to being in a dysfunctional relationship, money troubles are the commonest cause of severe stress.  Sadly, dysfunctional relationships and money troubles often go together.

There are four sets of reasons that may have caused your money troubles;

  • Misfortune.  This is not your fault,  You may have lost your job, have uninsured medical expenses, your ex may have never paid child maintenance, your water heater may have exploded in a cloud of steam…..
  • Laziness and Stupidity.  You never open your mail, you don’t check your balance when you withdraw cash from the ATM, you can’t be bothered to balance your cheque book, you don’t bother to look for the thriftier items when you go to the supermarket…..
  • Compulsive Spending.  You max out your credit cards and then get another, your favorite pastime is shopping, when you’re stressed you go shopping, you buy shoes you will never wear, you’ve bought a car you can’t afford, you buy stuff you don’t really want, need, or already have…..
  • Addictions.  Maybe this is where things get really, really bad.  You’re a drunk and you spend a fortune on booze in bars and supermarkets.  You’re a drug addict, you’re always jonesing for your drug of choice, and you would do anything to get your next fix, including spending the rent on coke.  You’re a gambler and when you’re in a casino you lose track of time and money.  You’re a sex addict and pay for a fuck or a suck, and you’re addicted to on-line porn and sex-chat…..

So you’re flat broke, have bills to pay, and you are very, very stressed, suicidally so.  So WTF can you do?

  • Stay calm, make yourself a cup of tea, sit down, get a pen and paper and make some notes.
  • Work out exactly how much you owe in outstanding debt, including all your credit cards, parking fines ~ basically write down and add up every single penny you owe.  Depressing isn’t it?
  • Work out exactly how much is the bare minimum amount a month you need to live on, including food, rent, utilities, car repayments, insurance, parking, and petrol, (gas).  Compare that with how much you’ve got coming in, and  if you’ve got less coming in than you will have going out, find something on your list you don’t need to buy.
  • Find the nearest discount grocery store, and resolve to shop nowhere but there in future, and to buy only their cheapest stuff, providing it’s nutritious.
  • Contact your bank, finance, and credit card companies and see if they can help you by deferring or reducing repayments.
  • STOP FUCKING BUYING NON ESSENTIAL STUFF.  If you have to, then cut up all your credit cards.
  • Find a way to recover from your addiction.  If you have to go to a couple of AA, or NA, or GA meetings a day then get your butt down there.  Take part.  STOP doing whatever it is that you’re addicted to; if it’s booze or drugs you may need medical help.

Some say that something good will turn up soon.  And that the Micawber Principle is a load of bullshit anyway.  All I know is that one shouldn’t throw good money down the drain.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

it isn’t this pensioner’s fault that she’s broke

you should have her worries

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs

Right now we’re having a vicious thunderstorm where I live, and it’s absolutely hissing down ~ raining cats and dogs.

without the rain there can be no life

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

and without the rain

there can be no rainbows

How to Build a Patio Planter ~ Video

There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.  ~  Janet K. Phillips

For me, building a patio planter, or raised bed, out of any materials you like, is a fairly straightforward project.  However, I know that isn’t so for everyone.

Therefore, in a spirit of helpfulness, here are a trio of videos showing how to make a few examples of planters you could use a prototypes for whatever you would like in your yard.  As you can see, it’s a pretty straightforward project.

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

this easy wall planter

is one of my favourite ideas

Scenes on Sunday ~ Parasailing in Turkey

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

Oludeniz is a big centre for parasailing.  From the top of the mountain to landing near the beach-side restaurants the flight is about 40 minutes.  I didn’t go up there on my recent Turkish trip ~ I was too busy on the ground, taking pictures.

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

it’s quite fun to do the impossible

Off-Grid Electricity

Living off the grid brings a dangerous reality.

Whether I finally end up converting a school bus into a camper / RV, or building a shipping container home in the deep countryside, the chances are that I will need to generate my own electricity.  Luckily, these days this isn’t as difficult as you might think.  However, modern living uses a hell of a lot of electricity, especially in America.  We may be looking at an electricity usage of 30 kWh, (kilowatt-hours), every day.  However, with a little bit of arithmetic, (math), you can calculate your own likely electricity consumption, and your generating systems should be installed with that usage in mind.

There are three main ways to generate your very own off-the-grid power:

  1. A generator powered by an internal combustion engine.  Generators come in a huge variety of sizes, capacities, and prices, but a 6 kW (kilowatt), generator might set you back £1,500, ($1,800).  Other than capacity, the choice boils down to petrol, (gasoline), or diesel power. Generally speaking diesel is better, (but may be noisier).  With a little work you can also run generators on gas, (propane, methane, natural gas), wood alcohol, (methanol), and paraffin, (kerosene).  With some work, diesel generators will run on cooking oil.
  2. Solar Power.  Stick some solar panels on the roof, or in the yard, and you have electricity while the sun is shining.  Typically, solar power systems for a camper / RV, (and perhaps a shipping container home), produce 12 volt electricity, which is then used to charge a big battery, from which power is taken when anything electrical is switched on.  To step up 12 volt direct current to 110, or 230 volt alternating current you need an inverter.  These come in a huge variety of capacities and prices.  You can buy them at Home Depot.  Larger scale solar power systems, such as may be required by a decent sized shipping container home, usually need specialist installation.  You will probably need to find an appropriate contractor.
  3. Wind Power.  Wind power for a school bus camper / RV /motorhome would be very small scale and probably part of a 12 volt system.  A wind turbine for a container home would be bigger, but in the scheme of things, still very small scale.  A free standing wind turbine on a mast may need various regulatory permissions before you erect the thing.  Most likely you will also be digging holes and trenches, so I hope you can use a mini-digger, (tiny backhoe).

Typically, the ‘belt and braces’ type of guy, (that’s me), would install both wind and solar power systems for his Camper / RV / Motorhome, or shipping container tiny home, perhaps with a diesel generator as back-up for both.

If you haven’t realised from the above, then off-the-grid electricity comes in two flavours;

  • 12 volt DC, (direct current).  This is the same as you get from an ordinary car battery.  12 volt DC systems can be installed by anyone competent in DIY.
  • 120 volt (USA), 230 volt (Europe), and 240 volt (UK), alternating current.  This is what you get from the sockets in your home, and is often known as mains electricity.  Working with AC systems is normally not a DIY job, and at some point you will most likely need to employ a fully qualified electrical contractor.

So, you are generating your own electricity.  That’s only half the story.  Your camper / RV / motor home, and / or your container home will have to be wired to make use of all that lovely power.  Basic wiring is well within the scope of a person very competent in DIY, and 12 volt DC lighting is dead easy.  Mains electricity 110 volt and 230 volt AC is more complicated and you would do well to have your circuitry checked over by a properly qualified contractor before you use it.

Of course, these days you can actually buy a fully kitted out container home, complete with connections for all services, so all the wiring would be done for you.  That sort of misses the point, doesn’t it?  Amazon will sell you everything else you need to generate your own electricity.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

click to buy the turbine

 

 

Sponsored by:  http://www.amazon.com/shops/salinevalleyenterprises

Shipping Container Homes

You don’t need more space, you need less stuff.

Back when I owned a trailer park, shipping containers often made instant buildings which could serve a myriad of purposes for me, from simple storage units, through a workshop, to a pretty nice office.

(not my office, a home made from shipping containers)

What I have never yet attempted is to use a shipping container to make a tiny home, or more likely, use several shipping containers linked together to make a decent-sized home.  The place to start is to learn something about shipping containers, and then buy the right units.

Shipping containers are usually strong steel boxes with doors at one end, but they actually come in lots of versions.  The standard width is 8′ (eight feet), the standard height is 8’6″ (eight foot six inches), and the two standard lengths are 20′ (twenty foot), and 40′ (forty foot).  There are a whole raft of non-standard lengths starting at 5′, but a 10′ container is the more common of the non-standard lengths.  The internal floor areas work out at 150 sq ft for a 20′ container and 305 sq ft for a 40′ container.

Given that most people regard 1000 sq ft as a decent size for a home, (plus a garage), then we are talking of at least a couple of containers to make anything that approximates a ‘normal-sized’ house.  Container architecture is a discipline all of its own.

You obviously need a plot, the appropriate permissions from whatever building authority is responsible for all the regulatory stuff, and you may / or may not need to lay a concrete slab on which to stand the container(s) you’re going to turn into a home.  (Whether or not you need to lay a concrete pad depends on the ground, and how long you expect the container home to stand there.)

It’s no good just buying a plot, plonking a used shipping container there and expecting to live in it.  Shipping containers are steel boxes, and that means they are damn hot inside in summer, and bloody freezing inside in winter.   To make a home you will have to line out the inside, and perhaps even clad the outside.  Even if you just buy one 40′ container and are going to be happy living in 305 sq ft, you will still need to do a hell of a lot of work to make your steel box habitable.

One of the first things you need to learn is how to cut steel plate.  Your box needs more than a big door at one end, you need windows, (at least), and maybe another door, and perhaps holes so you can link one container to another to make a bigger home.  Luckily, shipping containers are mostly made of steel that’s only between 1.5mm and 2mm thick, so it’s easy to cut.  Realistically there are 3 ways to cut steel on site, (using an ordinary hacksaw will take you aeons and you’ll hurt your wrist and hands).

  1. Oxy-acetylene cutting torch.  These things are dangerous, and unless you’ve done this kind of cutting before, you would be best getting instruction before attempting to use an oxygen / acetylene torch.  However, a cutting torch is fast and it’s easy to cut complex shapes.  If you want circular cut-outs for round windows / portholes in your tiny container home, then oxy-acetylene could be for you.
  2. Electric jigsaw.  The sides of steel shipping containers are pretty easy to cut, so an ordinary electric jigsaw will chop out your doors and windows.  And, you can cut curves in steel with an electric jigsaw.  This is possibly the best choice for the averagely skilled person.
  3. Stihl cut-off saw.  STIHL is a trademark, but what we are talking about here is a big power saw of some description.  Cutting lots of big holes in your containers, on site, you may well want something like a petrol powered Stihl saw, (and make certain you have the right disk for steel).

The benefits of using steel shipping containers to make a tiny home, (or something bigger), is that it’s pretty fast and inexpensive to get a weatherproof structure on site, they’re strong and durable, and you can put them down just about anywhere.  A shipping container is probably the start of the ultimate off-the-grid home.

I can and have lived off-the-grid in a log cabin I built myself, (from a kit), but I would strongly caution anyone thinking of doing this concerning water.  You will need a constant supply of potable water, either from the mains or from your own well / borehole.  The average American uses between 80 to 100 gallons of water every day of the year.  It’s possible to finesse around all the other services; sewage, electricity, gas, heating, telephone and internet, but shipping water in a small bowser on a regular basis is an absolute non-starter.

Once you have a weatherproof structure with the doors and windows installed, and you’ve made a start on connecting your services, then you can start on the really fun stuff, which is fitting out the interior to suit your tastes.  The only limit to your imagination is the dimensions of whatever containers you have bought.

Making a home out of steel shipping containers is within the scope of anyone who is fairly competent at all kinds of advanced DIY, and who can also manage a project.

And all this gives me a problem; is my next project a school bus camper, or a container-based tiny home?

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

click on the book for more

 

 

 

 

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