Feb 192018

Wrong! Do it again!

That’s the quote from Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 that has been on my mind.

This is Part 2 of the Bathroom Penny Floor. It’s the part where it went wrong. The next part will be how I saved it (I hope).

The photo on the left is before I added the topcoat to seal and protect the floor. On the right, you can see that the topcoat has changed the colour and all but eliminated the pattern.

Once again I discover how difficult it is to get a clear answer on the best way to do something that many people have done before me. (The first time I really noticed this was when my first child was born early and the nurses had conflicting ideas about how best to care for her. But I digress.)

A quick recap

By the end of my first post about the penny floor, I was still laying pennies. Like everyone says on all the youtube videos, it took a lot longer than I expected. In my case, it took a full week longer and hours at a time. I stopped putting a drop of silicone on each penny and laid a thin bead down in a row–much faster, but there was some silicon trimming from between the pennies later.

Here is the final 3-minute video of me (and the cats and a bunny rabbit) laying the pennies. You will also see the grouting process.

The Process

First I found the more-or-less centre of the irregular shape I had created with the tile. Then I used a magnetic compass to draw where North East South and West are. Leanne’s Dad pointed out that this gave me magnetic North and not True North, but I don’t think we’ll be navigating a ship using our bathroom floor, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Next, as you can see in the video, I transferred Leanne’s design onto the floor.

The compass orientation meant that the edges did not line up with the tile borders, so I used different sized coins of various currencies to fill in the gaps as much as I could.

When I wasn’t creating a pattern, I chose pennies randomly, heads or tales, from our collection. Some were discoloured, but I felt that just makes the floor more interesting. Perhaps someone can tell our fortune by the patterns in the chaos–like reading tea leaves. We were happy with the result and I set about grouting.


I had grouted twice in my life before and I tried to anticipate how pennies would be different. I used the same non-sanded grout that I used between the rest of the tiles in the room. Non-sanded grout is just grout that you don’t have to sand afterwards. The hardest part was wiping the grout off the surface of the pennies afterward. They have little ridges that trap the grout and have to be cleaned out. Here’s a video of what that fiddly step is like:

Online guides

There are a few youtube videos that were helpful:

this one was very detailed and gave me some idea of what I didn’t want to do which was helpful. He looked deep into the question of what final coating to put on and decided finally on a polyurethane floor product because it was cheaper and easier than epoxy. He put on more coats than I did, it was a different product, and he writes that his floor has held up for over a year. After my experience, I’m recommending using epoxy.

-the most detailed video on using epoxy was this one. I watched it just before I tried again, this time with epoxy.

-a general overview with links to examples can be found here.

My Fateful Choice

A few months ago, a staff member at Haney Builders, my favourite supply store, suggested a product to cover the pennies called PIM+ by DynaCrete. When I finally checked into it online, the fine print dissuaded me.. This product penetrates concrete and is not good for impermeable surfaces like pennies.

Having noted that most penny floor artistes were choosing some kind of epoxy, I found some at our local Rona. I talked with the staff and went away with a brochure for Rust-oleum Epoxyshield which is intended for garage floors. They sell another product which is designed to penetrate concrete and will not work on other surfaces, so it’s important to get the right stuff. Key details noted in the product information that relate to penny floors for “Epoxyshield” are:

-it is clear

-it can form a thick coating, but may need to be added in thinner layers to allow for bubbles to escape while it sets

-it can be used for new concrete or previously coated surfaces, meaning it can be used on materials other than concrete

-it will change colour slightly in direct sunlight over time, but the strength will not be affected. You can add another product on top to stop this from happening. I figured that there will be minimal direct sunlight on our floor.

I always try to listen to advice from more experienced people. One such person, when I said I expected to use epoxy, suggested a “marine-grade gel coat”. This is one type of stuff they use on boats. He suggested I talk to Industrial Paint & Plastics. It’s frustrating to get a new idea when I’ve already all but made up my mind, however, I had one shot at this and I had to consider all options.

I checked out the website for Industrial Paint & Plastic and tried out their live chat feature. The person on the other end told me that marine-grade gel coats are not clear, and that I should visit the store because not all their products were listed on the website. That sounded like a lot of trouble and I didn’t think I would bother. I found an epoxy product on the website and noted the chemicals that were in it to compare to other products.

I was ready to buy the epoxy from Rona and, with a brief window during which Leanne didn’t need the car, I dropped by. I met the same staff member I had spoken to before and told her I thought the Epoxyshield was what I needed but I just wanted to compare the ingredients to another product I had seen. She explained that Rust-oleum doesn’t list their ingredients (it’s not food so they aren’t required to). She was also very reticent to endorse the product for a penny floor because she just didn’t know if it would work. Fair enough. She almost talked me out of buying it, but I don’t always have the car, so I picked it up anyway. $165. I figured I’d return it if I didn’t use it.

Use this on your boat, not on your penny floor

On the Sunday that I had set aside to cover the floor, I decided to give the other option its due. I went to Industrial Paint & Plastic and, after some discussion with the very helpful staff there, bought something I hadn’t considered before. It was System Three WR-LPU polyurethane topcoat. It was for boats. It was clear. It was tough. It came in a smaller container more suited to the small area I needed to cover. It was $85 so if I returned the epoxy, I would be saving $80. Okay, I said, I’ll give it a go.


I applied it while Leanne and the kids were away overnight.

It was kind of a lonely nightmare.

At first I poured it on and spread it with a paint brush. Somehow I was expecting it to go on thick like epoxy. Soon I realised that it was more like a lacquer and I spread it more thinly.

After an hour, I was supposed to be able to apply another coat, but after an hour it was still wet in places. Where it had pooled because I had laid it on too thick, I spread it out with the brush. This left brush strokes visible on the surface. Arg! I tried to remain calm as I checked on its progress periodically, in the dark empty house, throughout the night.

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To make matters worse, a milky colour began appearing in some of the grouted spaces between the pennies. Weirdly, I noticed that if I applied more of the stuff and pressed down into those spaces, the whiteness went away. It was surreal. Was there moisture still trapped in the grout? It’s still a mystery.

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By morning I had come to accept that the bright, shiny pennies, with all their variations of colour, were being blanded out into a uniform brown colour. Brush strokes were still visible. The compass was barely so.

I could have bought some linoleum with a penny pattern and it would have looked better.

“Ah, well. Live and learn. It still looks sort of cool and now I can move on to the next project.”

But I was not able to move on.

A couple of mornings later, after we had started walking on the floor again. I felt something under my sock. I discovered a penny had started to flake. The polyurethane topcoat of one penny had been flipped up by my sock-covered feet! Wha?!

This 2-minute video will show you what I mean:

I had mixed emotions about this. I was clearly not done with this floor, but I had a do-over–maybe I could fix it! My kids and I discovered the completely obsessive fun of pulling the little penny imprints up off the floor. I needed a tool to get the stuff out of the grouted spaces, and some pennies refused to give up their coatings, but large sections pulled up in sheets.

Like a snake, shedding its skin, the pennies reveal a fresh skin!

The next time I talk about the penny floor, I will show you what happened when I did it again–this time with the Epoxyshield that I hadn’t returned to Rona yet.

In fact I’m going to check if the first layer of epoxy is dry enough for the second right now. Wish me luck!

Jan 302018

We fell in love with the idea of making a floor out of pennies while planning our renovation. This week, I have been laying the pennies on the floor.

Like many things we planned, it feels good to finally be following through.

There are many videos and blogs about doing this and I’d like to share how we did it in detail, but today I’m going to give you a quick overview.


The floor in question is the floor of the new bathroom on the top floor. Just like the master bath downstairs, I embedded water heating pipes in a concrete and sand mixture, coated that with a thin layer of “thin-set” mortar and painted on the Red Guard water-proofing membrane. The result of these steps will be a heated and waterproof copper floor which will be warm to the feet.


I was not near done.

Our neighbour Ron lent me his tile-saw while he was away and I laid tile up the shower wall, behind the toilet, under the sink cabinet and in a border around the perimeter of the floor. I bought this tile at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. It has subtle veins of copper that will compliment the pennies. I’ll share more details about installing the shower and fixtures another time.


Ron looked at my tiling job and said, “Nice job!” and I nearly fell over.

Then Ron pointed out the challenge of laying pennies inside the perimeter I had created. Pennies are not nearly as thick as the tile, so I would have to raise the level of the floor to a penny-thickness below the level of the tile. Then I would have to make a perfectly level surface to lay the pennies on.

Suffice to say, with his suggestions and using thin-set concrete, I more-or-less accomplished that. I can feel a slight wave or two, but the clear surface I will lay on top of the pennies should level that out.

I started laying pennies about a week ago, but haven’t been able to work on it every day. So far I have worked about 8 hours just laying pennies.

Our approach

There are different approaches to this task and we decided on the following:

-washing, but not polishing or attempting to brighten the pennies. I haven’t seen a method of “restoring” pennies that didn’t seem to change the colour or shine of the penny to something not entirely natural. Part of the appeal of a penny floor to me is the story that each coin brings. Each one tells of its journey, but together they make something beautiful.


-we radiated the pattern out from the center of the space. Leanne chose special pennies with significant dates to lay in the center.

-Leanne settled on a diamond pattern. On the floor, I have laid the diamond points to indicate the points of the compass and remind us we are standing on a globe and orient us in the world. I drew a wide cross on the floor in pencil to guide me.

-I used a small drop of silicone sealant on each penny to stick it down. It will only have to hold the pennies in position until the floor is sealed.

-It is just as time-consuming as everyone said.

Working Fast

As I did with certain other moments in the construction, I set up my iPhone with a time-lapse app called iMotion taking a photo every 5 seconds. (By that measure, I spent 4 hours laying pennies on Sunday!)

Here is the mercifully-short two-minute version of the time-lapse showing where I am as of tonight. I had some fun speeding it up and slowing it down when the cat came in the room, etc. Enjoy!

What’s next?

After I finish laying the pennies, it will be time to grout. I will push the same colour grout that I used between the tiles into the spaces between the pennies. After that, I must choose a clear surface coating. I’m considering an epoxy or a “Marine-grade gel coat“. Any suggestions?


Jan 202018

It’s a daunting task sifting through the photographic story of our daunting renovation. So let me bring you up to date with a snapshot of “the utility room” as it is at present.

Mountains of debris and materials surround the incomplete but functioning heating apparatus in the basement. The new steel beams stretch above and a Christmas tree of red heating pipes radiate from behind the old electric water heater which is currently keeping the house warm (with the occasional help from our as-yet still in-use wood-burning insert in the upstairs fireplace.)

November 13, 2017

The red pipes are stapled to the ceiling and, when filled with hot water, warm the main floor of the house. I’m not recommending this in most cases but in ours it worked. If you already have a system of hot air ducts and you want to go more efficient and stop burning fossil fuels, you’ll probably end up with a heat-pump of some kind and an air-handler (fan). Much easier.

This is called underfloor heat

The other water tank (to the right) is a new one and it supplies all our domestic hot water (DHW). It is designed to work with a solar hot water system so only the top half is electric. Without the solar system installed yet, it works hard and is unable to fill our large bathtub in one go (I talk about our bathing hardships in this post).

Between the tanks is a utility sink which is not hooked up yet.

In the foreground is various detritus from all the various sub-projects involved in a big renovation. It includes a stack of beautiful custom-made window-sills crafted by Ron’s friend Andy and a classic, incredibly heavy table saw which I bought from a friendly neighbour to replace my much newer one which we burned out and is, apparently, irreparable.

I have to thank Richard at MeadowRidge Plumbing and Gas again. He supplied all the pipe and let me borrow his special stapler to attach the pipes to the ceiling. His team designed and installed the Christmas tree, did all the connecting and made sure everything worked. I’ll be singing their praises again on this blog.

The big missing piece to this system is the solar storage tank. We haven’t worked out the details, but I’m expecting a fairly large tank on the left of the above photo. We were given two hydronic (hot water) solar panels and, dammit, we intend to use them.

With photo-voltaic (electricity-generating) solar panels dropping in cost so quickly, the most common advice now is to install those and use the electricity to heat your water and do everything else, too. Dave the father-in-law likes to remind people that electric water heaters are 100% efficient–meaning all the electrical energy goes into the water–unlike gas or oil ones.

Hydronic panels don’t need direct sunlight like PV panels do, but they have other drawbacks like heating too much water when you don’t need it. That’s why I’m imagining a large storage tank, but it’s also our plan to sink that heat into the basement floor concrete which is why we ran water pipes through the large basement slab. That concrete slab can accept and store a lot of heat during the day and release it through the night.

Pipes in the slab

So, unfortunately as it stands, our electricity bill is pretty high since we are heating everything with two electric water heaters. We must accept this as short-term pain at this point in our journey. With higher incomes, we could install all the bells and whistles at once and show you the finished product like some HGTV show, but we can’t.

We can’t because for the first time in years, we can’t pay off our credit card every month. It’s a scary place to be. We don’t have the capital to move the project faster, and from what I hear on CBC, neither do most Canadians. If Canada is going to reduce energy consumption as we have committed to do, aren’t we going to have to change this situation?

I have a few ideas about that, but I’m going to have to find the time between work, kids and renovations to share them. Thanks for reading and supporting Hammond Forever House!


PS: if you’re curious about what the basement looked like before:

May 21, 2015


August 5, 2015








You may also enjoy the posts about clearing out the basement and getting the basement ready for lift-off.

Jan 142018

I’m so excited about my new (used) computer and ability to shoot a video and share it immediately that I took my clothes off!

The bathing room January 14th, 2018

To give us a conditional occupancy permit just before Christmas 2016, the City of Maple Ridge required us to have somewhere to bathe. We installed the Master Bath, but not the Master Shower. They inspected the shower pan to make sure it was water proof and I assisted our Master-mason neighbour, Ron, installed the floor tile.

The bathing area has not changed much since then. No shower. Red walls (sealed with Red Guard roll-on sealant). No curtain or barrier between the bathing area and the rest of the bathroom.

How can we possibly live?

This is a video Leanne shot with me last night to answer that question. In it we talk about the where we are, how we got there and where we’re going with the bathroom. I also demonstrate how we bathed when we lived in Japan and how that colours how we bathe now. You can tell I’ve forgotten how to talk publicly at the beginning of the video because I can’t seem to finish a sentence.

**WARNING!!! The following video contains middle-aged semi-nudity. Viewer discretion is advised.**

After we moved into this house in 2007, we updated the kitchen and bedrooms. The bathroom then became the focus of our discussions. It was the reason we started looking at a more ambitious renovation.

It was in this room, when it looked like this:that Leanne inspired me to dream bigger. We were talking about what changes we would like to make while standing between the old sink and the old bathtub.

I said something like, “wouldn’t it be amazing to have a Japanese-style bathroom where you can get the floor wet, bathe outside the tub and then have a nice soak in clean water?”

Leanne said something like, “Why can’t we?”

I said, “Wha-huh? Whaddaya mean?”

“There is no reason we can’t have the bathroom we want.”

I’m paraphrasing, but that conversation led us to ask Annabel the Architect to draw the generous bathing space we have today.

Even though it is not finished, I remind myself every day that we have achieved that dream.

Credits and Thank-yous for the bathroom:

Ron the awesome neighbour for donating his time and expertise. He taught me how to use his tile saw, advised me on everything from framing the tub surround structure to how to create a slope for the shower drain and how to mix sand and cement to pour over the heating pipes in the floor. He lent me his big tub o’ Red Guard, tools, and so much more.

Pro-fix Drywall for putting the drywall and Densshield boards up, mudding, taping and priming the whole room. Great job!

Meadowridge Plumbing and Gas for all the plumbing.

Splashes Bath & Kitchen Center who supplied the shower fixtures.

-Ron’s friend Andy who custom-made the new window sills for all the new windows in the house.

-Our neighbour Sue who supplied tonnes of storage advice as well as furnishings like the shelving unit in the bathroom.

Craigslist for helping me find the toilet, sinks, taps and the dresser I turned into a bathroom counter.

-Our friends who gave us their old bath tub.

-Leanne for giving me inspiration and partnering with me on this crazy journey.

Renovating a home is not easy, but by telling our story, I hope it becomes easier for you.

Jan 062018

It’s 2018.

Doesn’t it feel like a better year than 2017 already?

We have been living in Hammond Forever House for a full year, having obtained a conditional occupancy permit from the City of Maple Ridge just before Christmas, 2016.

December 27th, 2017 Improved insulation under the roof means the snow melts more slowly

I fear I have settled into a dangerous acceptance of the state the house is in. Have I lost my drive to finish this project? Has my family simply resigned themselves to bare-bulb lighting and unfinished cupboards?

After taking on the teaching of a second LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) class, this one in the evenings, my time to renovate is even more limited.

I’m now looking at getting the last outstanding elements done–things like basement drywall, upstairs windowsills, bathroom tile and the exterior finishes. After the holidays, I’m finding it a struggle to get my head back into the game.

However, I am optimistic for one main reason. I bought a new computer.

Well, it’s not new. (If you have been following you’ll know I hate buying new stuff (because it is wasteful and expensive and has such a huge carbon footprint.) I bought a used MacBook Pro from mid-2012 which Simply Computing had leased out to a University and was now selling for $650. I spent another $120 doubling the RAM to 8GB so it would run faster aaaaaaand so far all is well! Apparently Apple has been selling this same basic computer until about a year ago so it’s not really “old tech.”

Anyway, what this means is that all the photos and videos that were trapped on other devices because my old MacBook was too old and Leanne’s MacBook Air was too full are now at my fingertips.

I can finally go into detail.

There is a lot of detail. Every photo contains so much. For example, in this photo from three weeks ago.

December 26th, 2017


1. The diamond window is the same single pane of glass in its wood frame as it was in 1923 but behind it is a new triple-paned fiberglass-framed window (custom-made by Milgard and ordered via Haney Builders). The wall on either side of that window is now about ten inches thick and full of insulation. I thickened that wall myself based on suggestions from Monte Paulsen at Red Door Energy Design.

2. The new front staircase is the second staircase I have ever made myself and it has exactly the same rise and run and number of stairs as the original. Achieving all that is a story in itself.

3. The chimney and new chimney cap are the work of our master-crafter neighbour, Ron, who stewarded the chimney through the house-lifting and lowering process and then rebuilt it using bricks from the old center chimney that is no more.

Inside the brick is a steel liner and cap which is disguised by the period-appropriate concrete cap. Without Ron, we would have no chimney. Thanks Ron!

4. Then there is the mysterious hot spot at the bottom left corner of the roof. You’ll notice below the chimney there is a hole in the snow. That means enough heat is escaping through the roof to melt the snow in that spot. I suspect that the wall underneath that spot is lacking insulation so the heat from the living room gets into the wall and shoots up to the roof like smoke in a chimney. The solution is going to be finding a way to fill that cavity.

5. Finally, there is the level of the gravel pathway leading to the road. That is the elevation of the future path which will probably be poured concrete as it was before. By the level of the surrounding ground, you can see we’ll be removing about 6 inches more fill to get the yard to a reasonable grade.

Sometimes it feels like we’re going nowhere, but if we look back a couple of years, I feel better. Here is the front porch in August, 2015 just after the house was lifted.

August 21, 2015

Telling the whole story has always been the goal but having promised to do so also kicks my butt to keep going. I find blogging provides inspiration to push through and finish.

Is there any aspect of this project that you’re wondering about? Leave a comment with your questions and I will address them in my upcoming posts.

Happy New Year!


Sep 282017

My back is telling me to stop working on the house, but today was sunny and the rain is a-coming so I figured I’d better work on the porch.

I’m very pleased I was able to get the larger section of the banister up there and fit the shell of the old post over the 6X6 post I bolted to the front of the porch. I used four lag bolts on each post to attach it to the front face. As I mentioned last week, that floor is more or less floating on a bed of XPS styrofoam strips so I feel better now that it is has two good anchor points.

It was way back in the summer of 2015 that I posted photos of the porch deconstruction. If you would like to see a bunch of photos of the day we stripped the house of shingles click here! For photos of the stairs being removed click here. Those photos are coming in handy now as I work to reproduce the same surface appearance with a completely modern structure under it.

So far, the only difference will be that the banister will be slightly further forward, giving us more porch floor space. Hopefully the change won’t be noticeable.

Here is what the porch looked like before it was demolished:

Sep 172017

I know I promised more frequent, less in-depth posts so here is a cat on a post (in a post).

Odette is about 6 years old now and she is probably wondering what she did to deserve the new kitten which we have quarantined in the bathroom. They haven’t officially met, but we are now a two-cat household and she knows it.

So how is the house? Well, I’d like to tell you all about it but the photos and video are still stuck on the camera until I find time to clear the memory of Leanne’s computer. My old MacBook from 2007 is not only full, but also too old to update with current software.

Not to fret; this picture, uploaded from my venerable iPhone 4, tells a thousand words.

Odette is sitting on a post I just bolted to the reconstructed front porch. That post came out of the basement and used to hold the house up. Now I’m using it to anchor the porch posts that I’m about to replace.

Behind the post, lying on the porch, is the old railing attached to the shell of the old post. I’m going to insert the new post into that shell.

Here’s what the porch used to look like:

That’s what I’m trying to reproduce. Wish me luck!

PS. If you look closely in Odette’s photo you can see the complex layers I added on the porch to achieve the original tongue-in-groove top surface but still meet modern standards for a porch which covers a living space.

The “living space” under the porch is a root cellar but it still requires a proper water-proof vented roof. That bottom black layer is a “torch-on” roof surface. The blue blocks are 1″ thick XPS styrofoam to ensure I don’t nail into the roof from above. (More about styrofoam here.) Next is a layer of 1X4 “sleepers” onto which I nailed the tongue-in-groove fir flooring. The final surface is “floating” to a large extent, which is why I want to anchor it with these posts.

All this, by the way, I learned from Ryan at HW Construction. Thank you Ryan!

Seriously, that fir flooring is beautiful. It cost about $900 from Standard Building Supplies. Most people wouldn’t put it on a porch, but that’s what Leanne’s grandfather, Carl, did, so that’s what we did. We swallowed hard at the price tag, but I try to remember how much we’re saving by doing the work ourselves. That only helps until the credit card is maxed out, though.

Incidentally, the three houses across the street have the same flooring on their porches, too–it’s just older. You can see one of those houses in the reflection on the storm door.


Jun 232017

Quick shout out to the ReStore!

Habitat For Humanity opened one of their ReStores in Maple Ridge and I have found some great stuff for Hammond Forever House.

Last Thursday I noticed some toilets there that were still in their boxes. What we really want was a toilet like the one we had in Japan which had a little sink on top of the tank so you could wash your hands with the water that was refilling the tank–what a simple solution to reduce wasted water! We haven’t found one of those in Canada, so we’ll settle for a dual flush toilet that uses as little water as possible. (Update: I found one on the interweb and it looks like you can have it shipped to you in Canada! Find it here for a mere $468.00. Oh, wait, it says “This item is not for sale”. Never mind, we can’t afford it anyway. Why can’t we have nice things??)

I came back to the ReStore the next day and another customer had checked out all the toilets very carefully before I got there. He was taking one told me about the others. There were some toilets without boxes, and some pieces, but there was also a perfectly good dual flush toilet brand new in box.

How much? $130!

This thing is going in the new kids bathroom upstairs so it doesn’t have to be fancy (but it is) but it does have to conserve water.

The ReStore guy told me it had come from Home Depot.

Later that day I happened to be in Home Depot with some birthday gift cards burning a hole in my pocket and I took a look at the toilets (as you do).

I don’t think I saw the exact model–it was probably discontinued–but I did see this one:I’m pretty sure that’s pretty much the same pretty toilet. But it was $200 cheaper at the ReStore.

I bought a “hardly-used” dual flush toilet for the main downstairs bathroom from craigslist for $100, but I think this is a better deal. As so often happens on craigslist, the owner bought a new toilet to spruce up the home he was selling and then learned the new buyer planned to demolish the home, so he rescued the toilet. We haven’t had any problems with it so far and I’ll let you know if there are any problems with the ReStore toilet.

Save-The-Planet note: it is always better for the planet to re-use something instead of buying new. Sometimes it takes a little time to find the right thing, but it always saves energy and resources and it always saves us money, too.

Jun 182017

**WARNING — this post contains graphic details of home medical treatment. Squeamish people may want to skip this one.

Have you ever hit your thumb with a hammer?

Have you ever hit your thumb with a screw gun (you know, a drill with a screw bit on it for screwing in screws)?

Until this month I could say that throughout this whole Hammond Forever House renovation I had done neither.

Now I have done both. And I have some advice (brace yourself).

If you see blood under your nail, you’re probably going to have to puncture the nail somehow to let the blood out and relieve the pressure. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

Sometimes photos get flipped for some reason, so I don’t know if you are seeing this right side up or upside down. The thumb with the single red dot is my left, the one with the more impressive blood-under-the-nail effect is my right.

About a month ago I was squeezing a stud with my right hand against another stud so that when I screwed them together with my left hand they would fit nice and snug. (Okay, I know that sounds dirty but I’m talking about the vertical 2X4s that are in the wall, not the other kind of stud. Please note that I was doing this to reinforce the wall where the glass of the new shower wall is going to attach, so I could have added, “in the shower” but I didn’t. You can thank me now.)

Anyway, I was pushing hard on the screw gun and it slipped and the bit jammed into my right thumb. If you have ever done this, you’ll know that it really hurts.

Fortunately, the kids were home so I could go downstairs and grump at them for not doing chores while I put ice on my thumb and felt stupid. Neither action really made me feel better and by the time Leanne came home, I had decided that I would need to puncture my nail to relieve the pressure.

The screw bit had hit high up on the nail, just under the cuticle, so it wasn’t too hard to push a sewing needle through. We sterilized a needle with a match, Leanne held my iced thumb steady and I pushed the needle with a thimble. A drop of blood formed and we knew we had gotten through. After the pain of the “operation” had subsided, I knew I had done the right thing because the pain caused by the trapped blood was much less.

It didn’t look nice though, with a large blood stain under the nail. People said my nail would “die”, but it didn’t. A couple of weeks later–you can see in the photo–fresh nail was growing out and the top surface was flaking off, revealing new nail underneath.

That’s when I smacked my other thumb with a hammer.

I was putting finishing nails in the tongue-in-groove ceiling on the top floor (photos in a future post). Just a light tap and I instantly felt like the stupidest guy in the world. I could see the little spot of blood under the nail.

“Here we go again.”

This time I thought I could ice it fast enough that I wouldn’t need to puncture the nail. We even took some time out when Leanne got home to have a picnic at a local playground until I realised that another home operation was unavoidable. It was hurting too much. The kids were upset, but we went home.

I went straight to the bathroom with the sewing kit as before, but this broken blood vessel was under harder nail than last time. I couldn’t force the needle through and it was painful to push so hard.

So I did what you would do and got the drill.

I have a really nice tiny drill bit that would have been perfect, but my cordless drill can’t grip it. It’s too small. So I had to use a slightly larger bit–still very small, but…

This time I didn’t ask Leanne for help. Nobody came in the bathroom until I made that little macho pain sound. It’s kind of a grunt, like a cross between “Oh!” and “Ugh!”.

Then Leanne and our daughter came in and saw the drill on the counter with a drill bit, blackened from the match, with blood on the tip and nice little balloon of blood sitting on my thumb nail.

“Wow.” said my daughter.

“Your dad is a badass.” said Leanne.

The moral of the story can be gleaned from the photo. My left thumb is healing nicely with a small hole in it. My right thumb is also healing but it looks like a nightmare. I don’t think the needle hole allowed enough blood to escape. Next time I’m just going to get the drill right away.

“Or,” my daughter said, “you could quit hitting your thumbs!”

May 042017

I got pretty political during the Federal election in 2015 and I even wrote a post titled “Vote for Bob D’Eith“. Bob was the NDP candidate in my riding.

Well, it’s Provincial election time and I haven’t had the time to investigate the candidates too deeply, let alone create a well-researched blog post about it, but I do have something to say, for what it’s worth.This is my political T-shirt this time around. That’s Neil Degrasse Tyson saying, “What if I told you that it’s okay to change your opinion based on the latest evidence?”

With a T-shirt like that, you’d think I’d be voting Green, wouldn’t you? Sorry, but we still have a first-past-the-post system here, and in my riding of Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, the race is between the NDP and the BC Liberals and I have to vote against the Liberals IMHO. So do what you want, but this time around I’m voting for Lisa Beare of the NDP.

Do I have something personal against my BC Liberal candidate? No, but if we look at the responsibilities of the provincial government, especially healthcare, housing, education and transportation the evidence shows that those files, after 16 years of Liberal government, are not doing well.

What we typically hear from Liberal candidates is that they will create jobs, but I’m hearing from economists that provincial governments have very little control over the economy as a whole. The promises that Liquified Natural Gas will solve everything have been proven hollow, yet they continue making them.

Speaking of LNG, how does such intense support of the fossil fuel industry jibe with fighting Climate Change? I’ve written about the inconsistent support for reducing home energy use, even though I appreciate the new Oil to Heat-pump rebate, but how can a government simultaneously build a massive hydro-electric project like Site C, push LNG and still support homeowners reducing their GHG emissions?

They can’t and they don’t.

Priorities like LNG and Site C demand that the world use more natural gas and more electricity, not less. China should move (and is moving) directly from burning oil and coal to using renewable energy. British Columbians can and should reduce their energy use and switch to renewables, too.

UBC researchers have even found that halting construction of the Site C dam is our best economic move. “The report calls for the project to be suspended as it has become ‘uneconomic.'”

Without First-Past-The-Post, I would say let’s collect the best information from experts on how to solve the challenges before us–the housing crisis, the drug-overdose crisis, rising healthcare premiums, rising BC Hydro rates, climate change, etc.– and then vote for the party whose platform most closely matches what the experts recommend. It is my impression that the NDP and the Greens have platforms that are far more evidence-based so, in this system, it becomes a question of voting for the candidate who stands the best chance of defeating the BC Liberals, whose platform seems based on populism and trickle-down economics.

A case in point in Maple Ridge is the homelessness issue. It’s not unique to Maple Ridge, but two years ago there was a large “tent city” that sprang up in the downtown and wouldn’t go away. Many residents and local businesses naturally wanted to blame the people camping there because they are breaking the law, but homelessness and drug addiction are problems that can be traced to failings in Provincial policies related to healthcare, housing and education.

It’s a question of priorities. The good folks in the BC Liberal party like to campaign on the concept of balancing the annual Provincial government budget. Every election, if they can claim to have done that, many people will vote for them. I guess we think of our household budget and how hard it is to balance that, and surmise that if the government does it, they must be good fiscal managers. However, a province is not a household and the long-term economic and social well-being of the province cannot be managed in this way.

If you want to balance your short-term budget, you must ignore the experts that tell you to invest in education, affordable housing and healthcare. In the long-term, failing to invest will cost far far more. (To be fair to the BC Liberals, our political system is not set up to manage long-term challenges very well and it takes a lot of trust for someone to vote for a party who says they will run a deficit, even if its the right thing to do.)

So, when other parties promise to increase funding to deal with these problems, the BC Liberals fire back that what they are proposing is impossible “within the framework of a balanced budget.” This is a false standard. People are dying. People can’t afford to live in the Lower Mainland. People can’t afford childcare. Beyond the human cost, these crises have long-term disastrous effects on our economy.

The way the BC Liberals have chosen to “balance the budget” has been to cut (or fund inadequately): education (including childcare), healthcare and transportation. Ironically, the result is that ordinary households shoulder the burden of increased healthcare premiums, higher BC Hydro rates, traffic congestion, housing costs, childcare costs, etc. (And if you want to take the extra step of renovating and retrofitting an older home, forget it!)

Yes, while the Provincial government’s books look nice, most households are borrowing heavily. That’s not sustainable.

So what happened to the homeless camp? Did the provincial government step up? No.

As I recall, it was the Municipal government who arranged for a temporary shelter made sure the homeless camp was dismantled. A lot of people didn’t like that our property taxes helped fund a homeless shelter, and neither did I, but somebody had to do something.  Was it worth it? Apparently, yes. While deaths due to fentanyl overdoses are still rising in other municipalities, those in Maple Ridge have gone down. That’s a Municipal Government taking on a Provincial Government responsibility and showing them how it’s done.

Did Maple Ridge Council listen to the experts? Here’s a story on BC Housing presenting to Council last year: click here. BC Housing is the Crown Corporation that should be leading our representatives with fact-based advice. I wonder why their website, www.bchousing.org is showing “service unavailable” right now? Perhaps their fact-based advice is not something Christy Clark would like us to hear right now? Ah well, the information is still out there. UVic’s Centre for Addictions Research wrote a policy framework for the City of Victoria and it clears up a lot of questions.

That “temporary” shelter’s operation stretched out while the homeless hot potato bounced around. How much easier it is for a government if homeless people keep to themselves so we can ignore them, eh?

Nobody wants a homeless shelter in their neighbourhood, but experts will tell you it needs to be centrally located and accessible (among other things) or there is no point. The way it usually works is the city provides land and the Province builds the facility. The Quality Inn was identified as the next step–still temporary, but it would do until a permanent shelter was built with $15 million of Provincial funds. There was, of course, a protest and it seems that our two local BC Liberal MLAs intervened and asked the Housing Minister to cancel the Quality Inn plan. That extended the use of the first temporary shelter.

In this photo of a house I pass on the bus a lot, a BC Liberal supporter displays a “No Shelter” sign in their window. This slogan epitomizes to me short-sighted, mean-spirited NIMBYism.

Next, the City agreed to buy another plot of land for $1 million. In the face of more protests, our MLAs rejected that site, too. More recently, they held a public forum and appointed 7 residents to choose a location for the shelter. Any experts on that panel? Nope. The big thing we know about the panel’s recommendation so far is that it should be outside the city centre and shouldn’t be “low barrier”. Now, I’m sure these are well-meaning, concerned citizens, but how much do they know about where a permanent, multi-faceted housing and service center should be located other than, “not in my back yard”? If we put the facility out of sight (and out of mind) there is a good chance we will pay $15 million for a hardly-used facility while the crisis continues. That’s right, a shelter AND a homeless camp.

This is hardly evidence-based decision making. This is populism at its worst.

While this staggering inaction is continuing, the 2 year-old “temporary” shelter is being closed down and the situation is returning to where we were two years ago when the homeless camp sprang up. Is there another camp? Of course there is. Politically speaking, what our BC Liberal candidates must be hoping is that their supporters will take their anger and frustration out on the people creating the new camp and not on them.

It’s not a bad bet politically. I can imagine a crowd chanting, “Lock them up! Lock them up!” However, what we really need is leadership which listens to both the public and the experts but is not afraid to do what is right based on the best possible evidence. What we have now is MLAs who listen to the people who shout the loudest.

This is where my vote is going this time around.

One last note about the NDP. Someone I know says they will never vote for the NDP because of experiences they had with a labour union 30 years ago. Is that still a thing? I pointed out that Christy Clark was Education Minister 15 years ago when the BC Liberal government illegally altered the teachers’ contract and has been spending millions of Provincial government money fighting a case they must have know they would lose. “But it’s a different party now” came the response.

30 years vs. 15 years.

I don’t like party loyalty and you won’t get me to pledge my future support to any party, but if you hate the NDP on principle but are willing to accept that the BC Liberals can change their ways, you should read my T-shirt again.

What if I told you that it’s okay to change your opinion based on the newest evidence?