Some of my tiling handy work

Friday, October 30, 2015 19:00 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments

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Mostly green

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Flush with outlets

21:43 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
New Zealand electrical outlets are not the same as North American outlets. In Canada and the US, electrical outlets are recessed into the wall and they have a little face plate that covers them so that they are (basically) flush with the wall.  Here in New Zealand however the electrical components are built right into a raised plate. These plates are designed to sit on top of the wall and they are then covered by another thin plate that covers the screw holes that you would use to mount the plate to a wall.  I would estimate the plate sits about 1.5 cm (half an inch) above the surface of the wall. So the idea of a flush or semi-flush electrical outlet is pretty much non-existent.

So what do you do when it comes to tiling? Well, in Canada, you'd get an item that is designed to allow you to mount the electrical outlet to sit flush on top of the tiles. Then you'd put the face plate on top of the outlet just as you would if it were mounted flush to the wall. Here as I mentioned, the plate is already sitting 1.5 cm above the wall, so If you tiled around it, then the outlet would be flush with the tiles. No problem right?

Wrong! As I mentioned, the electrical components are built into the plate, so if I were to tile and grout around the outlets, I'd never be able to get access to the innards of the outlet unless I destroyed the tile work. So what do you do?

Well, like in Canada, you need a spacer that will pull the plate (further) off the wall.

Oh, so this spacer will allow the outlet to sit flush with the tile?

No, no, no, no. Don't be silly! The space you purchase is basically a hollow plastic casing that the electrical outlet sits on top of that raises the outlet about twice as high as the original outlet height. So instead of the outlet sitting about 1.5 cm above the wall, it is now sitting about 4.5 cm above the tile! The example below (the middle piece) is to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. The only difference is the ones here in NZ are about twice as thick.

Ok, I get it, NZ needs to have their outlets raised well above the wall. Fine! So I bought three spacers for the three outlets that I would be tiling around. So, I'll just unscrew the outlets, and slip the spacer around the outlet so that it sit behind the plate. Or at least that was the plan. Much like a manhole cover can't fall down a manhole, there was no configuration that I could manage that would allow me to slip the spacer behind the outlet unless I disconnected the wires from the back of the outlet.

Now, New Zealand does not use the same voltage as they do in North America. Instead of 110, they use 220 volts. That's right, the same voltage that is used to power an industrial dish washer in Canada is what they use for a toaster here! So, I turned off the power, took a photo of the exact placement of the wires within the outlet, and disconnected the wires. I then slipped the spacer behind the outlet, threaded the wires through the spacer, reconnected the wires into the outlet (using the photo as a guide) and then went back to the power box and flicked the switch... No explosion? No smell of burning wall? Hooray! I did it properly!

I did the exact same thing for the next outlet in the series: power off, disconnect wires, put spacer between wall and outlet, reconnect wires, power on... No explosion! In your face, Tesla!

Finally I came to the third outlet, and that is where my luck turned. Due to the placement of this outlet I had to pull the wires out from the wall a bit in order to get better leverage with the spacer. Unfortunately, pulling the wires out proved much easier than pushing them back in! Due to the awkward location and the stiffness of the wires, every time I tried to fasten the outlet back to the wall, one of the wires would be stripped off of the electrical outlet. This happened again and again and again until I broke the piece that holds the wire in place within the socket. FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF!

So I went back to the hardware store and purchased what I thought was normal switch, but as it turns out was a different kind of switch. Apparently the type of switch I had was something totally different. So, long story short (oh it's much too late for that), I had to call an electrician to come in and fix my wiring problem. Because like I said earlier, NZ uses 220 volts in their wiring, and I don't look good with a perm!

So the electrician has come and gone; it only took him about 10 minutes to fix the problem. But the good thing is, I can now finish tiling without any issues with electrical outlets. Other than the fact that they are raised about 12 metres off the wall that is!

Figured it out by myself

Sunday, October 25, 2015 22:26 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
We are installing some tile back splash in the kitchen this weekend, which is going to be one of my few handyman endeavours. Well, while chiselling the old tiles off the wall, I pulled up some of the hardboard. Which is a unique problem in itself as in Canada, virtually all modern housing is constructed with the walls made out of drywall (or as they call it here, gyprock).

Which brings to mind an issue I had in another handyman experience where I was painting our living room and needed some mud for the sanded joins in the drywall; yeah, the living room had drywall, but the kitchen had hardboard! (I don't try to understand it). So while trying to by mud for the joins, I went to the hardware store and asked for two gentlemen behind the counter:

Excuse me, where is the drywall section?

I was met with blank stares.

The what section?  They asked.

The drywall section, I replied.

Again, I was met with blank stares. So after about ten minutes of explaining what drywall was using wild hand gestures to illustrate my point, I explained that:

Drywall is the stuff you put over the frame of your house and put mud over the taped joints and sand the mud, and paint it, and hang pictures on, and fill with more mud when you punch a hole through it.

They finally understood what I was getting at and said that what I was looking for was "gyprock".

Fine, where is the gyprock section? I asked.

Oh, right behind you!


Anyway, it occurred to me much later that these are people employed in a hardware store, and as such you'd think they would know their stuff. They might watch renovation shows and on those renovation shows, they must have heard the term drywall! So I think they were just having a bit of fun with the foreigner. Anyway, back to the original story.

So I went to go buy a few supplies to fix the hole I put in the hardboard while chiselling out the old tile and one of the supplies I purchased was a folding saw horse which I had to assemble myself.

Now, I am not the most naturally adept person when it comes to handyman projects. I have friends, such as my friend Jeff, who have done some serious automotive repairs and have done all manner of home repair as well; things like outdoor maintenance like building decks or indoor projects like completing basement reno ro installing a hardwood floor, etc. I also have family who have literally built their own houses from the ground up. These are all people I both loath and admire. It seems to me that there are two kinds of people in this world: Those who who were born with a set of wrenches in their hand and those who can, with time, figure out that a light switch can function in both the on and off position. Guess which side of the scale I fall into?

Anyway, I seem to have lost the plot again. So I was following the directions to assemble the newly purchased sawhorse and while putting it together, they indicated that I should add washers to both the parts of the bolt before fastening the nuts (*giggle*...nuts). Anyway, it occurred to me while I was following the directions without question what washers actually do.

Because the metal that forms the legs on the sawhorse wasn't incredibly strong, using washers would distribute the force of the tightened nuts (*giggle*) so that the metal wouldn't get damaged. I had never understood what washers were for prior to this point! Sure I had assembled my fair share of Ikea furniture, and yes, I had used plenty of washers, but I only did so because the Allan Key mascot on the instructions told me to. Somewhere along the line, I had figured out something on my own. I had made a deduction!

Anyway, I'm sure there are four year old children who have figured this out long before I had, but hey, I figured out something!

Evening low tide

00:46 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments

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Wood pigeon

Monday, October 19, 2015 17:33 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments

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Mural on a power substation

Sunday, October 18, 2015 11:01 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
I've talked about the trend to beautify public works boxes. You know those big grey communication boxes you'll see lining the streets, or the power substation boxes you'll see around. Well, this one was absolutely lovely! They painted a mural on it of a book shelf!

I love it!

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The sea was angry that day my friends

10:56 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
This will go down in history as a crappy weekend (weatherwise).  Yes, I'm sure there have been worse, and there will probably be even worse weather in the years to come. But this was a windy, and miserable weekend.
Except for right now. The sun seems to have come out now, so maybe it isn't as bad as I thought.
I don't know!

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A splash of colour

I'm not a flower expert, but I think these can be classified as pretty.

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Walnut is enraptured by the beach

Friday, October 16, 2015 21:18 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
This was our first time back in Waikanae in about 8 months. As you can see by the joy on Walnut's face, he missed it immeasurably.

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Some sort of bug maybe

20:13 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
We stopped at Raumati to enjoy a chilly picnic with our tom kah soup. After eating, we took a short walk and came across a lovely little plant. I don't know what it is, but I thought it was pretty.

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Kristie guess nuts

20:13 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Kristie and I went to Waikanae after work today. The weather was quite windy and gloomy when we got to the beach, but we were determined to get the dogs out for one of their favourite walks. The wind was blowing, and the waves were crashing. So much so, that Kristie's poor mind snapped and she went a little loony.

I'm not sure what look she was going for here, but I'm pretty sure she nailed it!

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Angus gets a hair cut.

Monday, October 12, 2015 21:33 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Usually, when I clip Angus and Walnut (Walnut hasn't been done yet), I use electric clippers. Alas, the clippers I have been using over the last 8 years have now have finally come to the end of their usefulness and crossed the rainbow-clipper bridge.

So this time I just used scissors. It took a long time, but luckily Angus likes being preened. In the end, I don't think I did too bad of a job.

You're next Walnut!

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I'm walkin' here!

I don't know why, but I found this guy fascinating.

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Walnut poked the bear

14:09 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Walnut doesn't have his own bed. Generally he will take some of the throw blankets on the couch and make a nest out of them; it's his thing.

Every now and then however, he will seize an opportunity to steal Angus' bed; granted only if Angus isn't in it. He'll poke the bear, but he won't wrestle with him.

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Petal obstruction.

14:07 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Such a wonderful day today!

Got to take the boys for a walk to Dnsheas Deli for a Chai and a slice. Then we took them up Mt. Kaukau (mini Kau) for a picnic and some time to bask in the sun.

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Walnut and Angus go to work

Friday, October 09, 2015 19:53 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
The place we went to get our poutine was only about a block away from work, so we brought Angus and Walnut along with us. While I went to go pick up the poutine, they stayed in the office with Kristie and then we all had an office picnic.

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Another Kiwi take on poutine

19:33 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Today we tried a new place (to us), called Burger Liquor, and they were offering poutine. We thought that since it is so hard to find poutine here, we should give anyone offering it the opportunity to impress us.
Now, while I wouldn't say we were blown away, this was a solid effort on their part. They were thick cut fries served with melted tasty (cheddar) cheese and mushroom gravy. The taste was good, and the fries were hot, so they went down quite nicely.

We do have a few observations however; a few notes if you will. The first being that they were served with regular cheese and not cheese curds. This is not a specific call out to this restaurant, as cheese curds don't seem to exist in New Zealand. Which I find interesting. I mean in a land where the chief export is milk products, you'd think they'd master all aspects of dairy and it's by-products.

Another issue was the size of the portion. For nine bucks, I expect a lot more than what we got. I'd say our serving size was about the size of small cup of fries from New York Fries.

Finally, and this is just an aesthetic point, but poutine should only be served in an aluminium pie plate. Again, this isn't a rebuke on this particular restaurant, but a truism about any place that tries poutine in the southern hemisphere.

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Instagram selfie

About a week ago, I decided to get some new glasses. Actually, advancing age and horribly deteriorating vision decided I needed new glasses. Anyway, with Kristie's help, we picked out an assortment of new frames, but we hadn't decided on which to get. So I uploaded about 10 photos of my choices to Facebook and asked my friends to vote on their favourites. It was a tight race between two pair. A thicker, darker pair and a wire-frame pair similar to what I had previously.

The wire-frame was actually ahead of the other pair, but I decided that since my vision is still deteriorating (thank you very much Father Time), I thought I would go for a different set of frames; ones that will probably go out of style in a few years, but I'll need a new prescription around that time anyway, so why not go for a totally different look?

Today, I picked up the new glasses: Jones of New York, and to celebrate...I took a selfie!

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Science based nutrition

Monday, October 05, 2015 09:45 Posted by Leo Saumure 0 comments
Those who know me, know that simply saying I am a science enthusiast is a bit of an understatement. I loath pseudo-science in virtually all forms, and try to combat it whenever I see it. Luckily I have found so many resources on-line to help me do just that; from blogs, to podcasts to science based YouTube videos, the chances for people to educate themselves using evidence is both staggering as well as warmly welcomed.

One of the places that I find pseudo-science rear its ugly head more often than almost any place else, is in the diet and exercise industry. You've got people like Dr. Oz spouting pure crap on his highly-watched show, you've got the Foodbabe spreading misinformation and fear-mongering throughout her blog, and that is just two examples of the bad science that is out there. There are so many more, and we haven't even touched on the fitness industry.

Yesterday, thanks to Kristie, I listened to my first episode of Sound Bites podcast. After just one episode, I was hooked! Sure, it is probably because the initial episode I listened to confirmed many of my biases, but at least they back up their claims with evidence, and link to that evidence within their show notes.

I'm not listening to it simply because of confirmation bias however. For instance, the second episode I listened to had an interview with Rachel Laudan, a historian who wrote a book about global food history. In this interview, she had some contrary points to some of the ideas of author, Michael Pollan. I really like Michael Pollan and his books, but some of the counter points I had heard in this interview, made some compelling arguments about how we should think about food.

So far, I've listened to about four episodes, and I am on a tear to make sure I hear them all. I have learned quite a lot from these first few episodes, as well as having some of my current eating/cooking practices validated.

I recommend that if you want to educate yourself on food, using good science and evidence, that you check out this podcast! The webiste is: and you can find them in iTunes and other podcatchers.

I like their sign.

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Horse box

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