• ### Good Fences Make Good Neighbours

Unfortunately, bad fences are another thing entirely. Many weeks ago, my neighbour decided he wanted to build a fence. “Sure!”, I said, not realizing what I was really in for. Some time later, fence posts arrived, and I started to wonder when we would begin.

Well, I found out one morning when, to my surprised, I heard the sounds of digging outside. I went out to find him installing posts with the help of his other neighbour. This would be fine… if they knew what the hell they were doing. But they didn’t. The holes were far too shallow (maybe a foot deep), and the 4x6 posts were turned so the short side lined up with the fence line, and in many cases they weren’t even properly aligned. It suffices to say I got out there immediately. We ended up digging 2’ holes (which probably should have been 3’, but he wouldn’t listen) with no gravel in the bottom (despite my enquiries) and concrete dumped in the holes with the posts (he claims we didn’t need forms).

This is when I first realized something about my lovely neighbour: he’s a know-it-all who doesn’t actually know what the fuck he’s doing. Worse, he is whatever the opposite of a perfectionist is. This certainly explains why he was so impressed with my work on our Cedar Deck.

This was all illustrated in our next interaction. We had talked about materials, and I told him I wanted pressure-treated or Cedar, nothing else (I’m not planning to treat the fence right away, if at all). Moreover, standing beside the fence posts which extended far above my 5’ 6” frame, I told him we’d need at least 6’ boards. Well, guess what showed up on his driveway a week or two later? 5’ spruce boards! Well, there was no way I was going to put up with that, so I told him he had to have the boards replaced with 6’ PT.

Oh, but I’m not finished! The neighbour decided, on some of his off time, to put the 2x6 cross braces on. Good idea, right? Apparently not. You see, rather than building a nice sloped fence like everyone else in our neighbourhood, he decided to use joist hangers and make a stepped one. So now, either I’m going to get fucked with two different styles of fence, or my other neighbour will, and I’m not willing to inflict that on him.

But wait, you probably think I’m done now, right? Oh no! No no! You see, we still haven’t gotten to the fence boards! I was chilling comfortably in the house when I heard the sound of a drill outside. “Oh shit, he’s working on the fence”, I thought, and I raced outside to find he’d finished the far panel and had started on the next one. From a distance, it didn’t look too bad… and then I got closer. First, I should point out that he put all the fence boards on his side, which isn’t that big of a deal. However, he also bought screws that were too long. So, on the entire first panel, all the screws had driven straight through and were sticking out on my side. ARGH! Worse yet, his idea to fix it was, get this, to grind the tips off. Let’s just say I objected.

“But what about the second panel?”, you ask? He decided to start driving the screws in at an angle, rather than doing the obvious and just returning the damned screws. Well, in this case, I didn’t care too much, as the screw heads show on his side, not mine. But, upon examining the work, it was pretty damned obvious that the fence boards started level with the top cross-brace, and slowly started curving up! I mean, how could you not notice this?!?

At this point, I simply took over. There was no damn way I was going to let him fuck up my fence further. Luckily, he had to drive his wife somewhere, and by the time they’d returned, I’d already done two panels and started a third, and by the end of the evening, I was done. The next day, I rescrewed the entire first panel (though, now my side of the cross braces are peppered with holes) and repositioned all the boards in the second one. The result is that we now have a decent (if somewhat odd) looking fence on the east side of our property that isn’t going to match with the one on the west. Woo fucking hoo.

Interestingly, this is a very clear illustration of why I chose to work on the deck alone. I’m a perfectionist, and unless I’m working with another perfectionist, I would inevitably get very frustrated. Moreover, if I work alone, I only have myself to blame if there are flaws in the finished product… as opposed to cursing someone else’s name every time I noticed something that annoyed me. :)

• ### Why I Hate Building Computers

So some of you may remember that a while back, I had a combination hard drive and power supply failure, simultaneously. The hard drive failure was pretty easy to detect, thanks to that lovely, disturbing clicking noise that haunts the dreams of anyone who’s experienced such a failure. Fortunately, the danger here was mitigated by the fact that, for some time now, I’ve chosen to run a pair of drives in a mirrored configuration (aka, RAID-1). Thus, while it appears to the user that I have a single drive, in reality, the data is always written to both drives.

The power supply, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter. When I noticed the failed drive, I removed it from the mirror and attempted to reboot my computer. But the other drive wouldn’t spin up! Or, it would spin up, but the computer wouldn’t detect it! Scared, I moved the drive to a spare machine I had, but sure enough, that machine wouldn’t detect the drive either! As a last resort, I took the drive to work the next day, and, to my great relief, the drive was perfectly readable, with all data intact. It was at this point that Lenore reminded me that my spare machine wasn’t in use because the hard drive controller was hosed. I then made the assumption that the same was true for my main computer.

Thus, I resolved to purchase myself another motherboard. So I took a trip over to BEST Computers and picked up a new board and a pair of new drives to replace my old mirror. But, when I got home that evening, I had a little epiphany, and decided to use my spare computer’s power supply in my main machine, just to test it out. And voila! It worked perfectly! Let this be a lesson: power supply failures can create weird, mysterious problems.

Anyway, what does this have to do with building computers? Well, suddenly, I had myself a spare motherboard and nothing to do with it. The natural thing, I thought, was to build a new machine (as opposed to just returning it…). So, eventually, I picked up a new power supply ($80), and this combined with the surviving hard drive from my last mirror, and the video card and RAM from my spare machine equalled a new box. Or so I thought. So I began assembly. All seemed to go well. I got the motherboard mounted, and proceeded to grab the RAM… which, I discovered was 133-pin SDRAM, too old for my new board which required 184-pin DDR-RAM. sigh So I took a last minute trip to Best Buy (yeah yeah, piss off) and picked up a gig of new memory ($140 - $26 rebate). Alright, so, RAM now installed. Case back panel, mounted. Front panel connectors, connected. Hard drive and CD-ROM, installed. So far so good. Lastly, video card. Now, you probably already know this, but the job of the tech industry is to make simple things hard and hard things impossible. In the case of video cards, they decided to invent the AGP slot, into which a video card is to be installed. Which would be simple. To make it hard, they decided to have different voltages for AGP. 3.3v, 1.5v, and if that wasn’t enough, 0.8v too! So, if you have a card in one voltage, and board which only takes another, you’re hosed. I bet you can guess what happened. I, apparently, have a 3.3v AGP card. Conveniently, my motherboard only takes a 1.5v AGP card. grumble. So now I’m stuck buying a new video card ($80).

 Motherboard $150 Power supply$80 RAM $140 Video card$80 Rebate -$26 Total:$424