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June 2005

June 20, 2005

Fixing a Clogged Pool Pump


Working Toward Plumber-Butt


We inherited an in-ground swimming pool with our current home and so far it’s been an uneasy relationship.  Sometimes the water goes green because I forget to pay attention to the chemicals for a week or two.  Or six. 


But my favourite part of pool maintenance is vacuuming.  Nothing beats the thrill of watching dirt and dead bugs get sucked into some other reality.  Satisfying, yes.  And constructive too, unlike most sources of pleasure. 


However, over the past week the vacuum lost its enthusiasm.  The suction gradually got weaker and weaker until the vacuum head was just listlessly stirring up the bottom crud  and not sucking up anything at all.  I checked the pump gauge.  It was down to 3 PSI.  Way too low.


I backwashed and backwashed, but the pump still didn’t recover its usual ‘chrome off a bumper’ sucking powers. 


I called John, the local pool guru and explained my pump’s symptoms. 


“Mag, you should clean out your impeller,"  he said bluntly.  I don’t usually take this kind of advice from a man, but today I made an exception.  I followed John’s instructions and you can too.  On the Irritation Index, this repair is about a 6 out of 10 – i.e. better than seeing dead vegetation and invertebrates build up to the same level as the water surface. 


And better yet, you only need one tool.

Continue reading "Fixing a Clogged Pool Pump" »

June 13, 2005

Blind Spot - How to Make Easy Blinds or Window Shades

Before_angle2_1 Up until a week ago, our living room windows sported semi-transparent vinyl blinds, circa 1985.  (You can still get vinyl blinds.  We priced them at a local shop; $850 to replace the old vinyl with newer vinyl which supposedly smells less vinyl-y, but the sample in the store smelled fairly rank.) 

Because the blinds were semi-transparent, you could see vague shapes outside when the blinds were closed.  But the transparency let a lot of light in, and consequently heat, so by 5:00 in the afternoon the room was lit in a post-nuclear style and it was 104 degrees in the living room.  I am not fibbing.   Post_nuclear_vinyl

And worse?  The blinds off-gassed.  When the sun was blasting at them, those blinds could smell up the whole house with the odor of a hot vinyl pool liner, circa 1985.  What causes the smell?  Phthalates.  (This word is hard to pronounce, especially if you have an overbite.) 

TIP:  Phthalates crept into widespread use over the last several decades because of their many beneficial chemical properties. Now they are ubiquitous, not just in the products in which they are intentionally used, but also as contaminants in just about anything.  Intentional uses of phthalates include softeners of plastics, oily substances in perfumes, additives to hairsprays, lubricants and wood finishers. That new car smell that becomes especially pungent after the car has been sitting in the sun for a few hours, is partly the pungent odor of phthalates volatilizing from a hot plastic dashboard. (read more)

The acrid smell from our vinyl blinds lingered every evening long after sundown.  Those blinds had to go.  And go they did. 

Half_done If you have vinyl blinds, consider replacing them with good old-fashioned cloth.  The smell disappears and so do the nasty, brain-killing chemicals.  Plus the room is WAY cooler.   This repair takes a few hours and you'll need a huge table or some floor space to lay out the blinds and square them. 

Continue reading "Blind Spot - How to Make Easy Blinds or Window Shades" »

June 11, 2005

Recumbing with Rick Green

RicksrecumbentThis is my friend Rick Green.  You might know him as Bill from The Red Green Show, or as the host of Prisoners of Gravity and History Bites.  Rick just got a recumbent bicyle.   Why?  On July 24, Rick is joining 300 courageous men and women who will bicycle the 660km journey from Toronto to Montreal, camping out along the scenic shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, in support of the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation.  Rick has no idea how he's going to ride over 100 km per day for six days in a row but he's going for it.  "I haven't ridden any distance in probably 15 years.  The ride is less than 7 weeks away. As you can see this is going to be an interesting challenge. Or a spectacular way to die."   To sponsor a rider like Rick (or even Rick himself) please visit the Bike Ralley web site and click on Pledge.  Thanks.

June 09, 2005

What an Animal

Mag_and_tatoo_the_bongo_4 I visited Mountain View Farms, an hour east of Vancouver, and fell in love with an African bongo named Tattoo.  Mountain View breeds endangered species and introduces them back to the wild.  Sometimes there are so few animals of a species left on the planet that they can't find mates for the animals they have.  Bongo is lonely, but they're trying to find him a (non-human) girlfriend. 

This fall Mountain View is shipping 35 animals to the Serengheti with the generous help of FedEx.   Mountain View's breeding success rate is phenomenal.  The farm is open to the public for tours - if you're nearby, please try not to miss it.   


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Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie