Drano Is For The Weak

While I sit here at my desk I hear the grinding sound of a kind of chain running forth & back through a pipe. It was the background music for the whole day.
The housing management announced some weeks ago that workmen would take care of the downpipe in the bathroom of the appartements 2 (mine, I live in a “2”) and 4. It would be necessary that not only access to the flat is possible through the whole process, but that also an inhabitant shall be attending. I asked my janitor about this, because of my morning drive, I am usually back before or around nine o’clock. He advised me to pin a paper to my door and by this tell them that I’d be back at nine in the morning, and all is good : “They just need to have a look, no big deal.”
I wondered because I only had problems with the downpipe of the kitchen, and I know that other tenants had too. I think the number increased over the last two years.
This morning when I returned I met two young men in shock-orange, they were pretty upbeat. I mentioned that I’d have to leave in the afternoon – no, they do not expect to be here by then. And yes – it was the kitchen pipe they had to work on, no clue why someone had written “bathroom” in the announcement.
Soon they started to do what they had to do, and some interesting grinding sounds came to my ear. They came near my flat, becoming louder obviously, and went away, downwards. Some hours later Red (I’ll call him “Red”, he has red-golden hair ; his colleague may be called “Black” – sophisticated eh?!) came by and asked if all would be right. I said yes, no problems. The problem showed up when he turned on the faucet of my sink ; the water was spiralling down, and after some seconds it came back, and spurted out of the hole in the wall where the drain goes in.
He sighed deeply. I said that yesterday I had washed my dishes without any problems. He replied that this would be exactly one of those things that could happen. He marched off and soon another round of grinding noises started. I grabbed some rags and started the mop up. On second thoughts I took a small bucket with warm water & cleaner, and wiped the kitchen floor, it was needed anyway.
Some time later Red dropped by again, looking unhappy. He told me that the kitchen on the fifth floor was swimming, and the two ladies there were not happy about this. In fact they yelled some un-ladylike words, towards him and the world in general. But meanwhile the situation on the second floor would have resolved. I did not inquire.
I asked him why they would not simply throw some Drano down the pipe and hope for the best, at least he laughed.
Again some hours later I had to put my gear together and leave again. So I searched for Red & Black, because I wanted to know whether they still needed access to my flat. I found them on the highest level of the house in a maintenance room under the roof. Both looked tired.
Black was on the phone telling the foreman that they had lost that spirally thing they inserted into the pipe, a coupler or engagement thingy had given in. They had to stuff more than forty meters of this device into the pipe ; the pipe itself has a diameter of a little more than five centimeters, the cleaning thing exactly five. It moves, bangs, rotates, I have no clue what it needs to do to detach the slimy goop of forty years from the inside of the tube, but it does its job. Now it does nothing except blocking effectively a very long stretch of said tube. Don’t know how much they could pull out before the “thing” gave in.
I handed my key to Red, he would put it into my letterbox when they leave. He said that they would not plan to stay overnight here, with a wry grin … well …
Actually I have to drive a longish detour, so I have to start earlier in the morning to reach my first, most distant,  stop. In the evening I come back notably later than usual, despite the fact that when the kids are not aboard I can use some bumpy shortcuts.
I wondered how my kitchen would look like.
When I came home some hours later I found Black in my kitchen watching the drain and listening intensely. He told me that Red would be in the fourth, so I went there. Red had given the key to Beard, die Verstärkung, who actually was on the fifth. Beard was friendly, I got my key.
They now have to fight against blockage after blockage, it feels as if every ten centimeters a new obstacle arises. The spiral-thing is still in the tube, seemingly somewhere over the fifth floor. Without getting rid of the blockages they have no chance to reach the thingy from below and push it up with strong springs, or grab it with at least something. From above they have tried what there is to try. They have to clear this tube any way.
And exactly this is what they try to do.
Since I came home I had a sandwich, drank a beer, wrote this post. And listened to the interesting sounds in my kitchen wall. There seems no perceptible progress. In the end the poor sods will have to stay some more hours, sadly I can’t offer them at least a sandwich.

What is actually the name for that stuff that blocks a downpipe ? Any thing in mechanics, plumbing, in technics in general, has a (speaking) name, why not this stuff ? Does nobody collect & analyse it ? Ach, the wonderful, undetected world of gunk !
I really wonder when they will give in. And only hope that “gunk” will not explode into my kitchen tonight.

It was remarkably quiet for some time now. I thought that they left, but a glance in the yard where their vans are parked, shows me that an other one arrived. So they called for additional help and may pause, well deserved after more than twelve hours.

Just some minutes ago Black came by and told me that they have finished the job. Not much left from the matutinal shock-orange of his workwear, it’s more a solid black with orange dots. What a job.


Pop! Goes The Weasel

Chances are that you have heard the sound. It makes a distinct noise when a bubble bursts. And all of a sudden you stand naked & alone in the cold wet darkness. Of course you sit fully clothed at the desk in your warm appartement, but the feeling of being abandoned is overwhelming for a moment. Sometimes it is a glance or a gesture, or an email with three sentences that you read in less than two seconds. To stomach what it says, may take a wee bit longer.
Of course it was not a large bubble, but a nice one, allowed to develop not for long, so it could not become an obsession of some kind, or something to build on. Just a nice idea to follow, nice enough to raise time & effort ; initial success helped the bubble to grow, and the sceptical, more seasoned & experienced part of the self warned. Of course one listens to this, but it would be … nice, wouldn’t it ?
The bubble bursts silently, but very audible, and the quiet reverberation will stay for some time. And “time” is the master word here, a cruel master, fluid, oily, untouchable, merciless.
So I will soldier on. And drive my vehicle over narrow, muddy roads, take care for the passengers, and ignore the dents.

Sunday Music

Every man needs a hobby, I know.
I just returned home having spent the afternoon auf dem Zug / “on the train”. Yesterday I sat in a park licking ice cream in the sun, today I walked through rain and very low clouds. At one point I even was close to running, because transfer time was very short due to construction works, but I kept to my stride and brisk walking was enough – pah ! When I finally sat in the last train for the last & longest leg of my journey two gentlemen stormed in in the very last minute, they not even sat when the train started moving. When they had recovered their breath they talked sotto voce about where they came from, where they were going to and whatever happened in the amazing world of model railroads.
Not that childish stuff when the kid is allowed to have a little tschuff-tschuff-Bahn run in circles, but the real dope when grown men use terribly complicated turnouts, switches or points, take apart scale locomotives because one of the wheels creaked, discus what they saw at the latest fair or trade show, exchange tips for what buying where and whom to turn to for that special part of this very rare out-of-production-waggon … you get the idea. Both were from somewhere North from Hamburg, clearly knew each other for ages, were at least in their sixties or maybe older – and their world turned around model railroading. They talked with each other for two hours without one single repetition of a topic, not sure whether this is correctly formulated, I mean there was no redundancy. They only were quiet for some time when they watched videos from a fair one of them could not visit, but he had in turn some other material from another event his friend had not seen yet.
I am pretty sure that these guys could tell after one look at the real stuff what is wrong with that switch or why this engine should go to the repair shop. And all in between : A heap of rotten metal flew by. “Oh, saw that old crane.” “Yeah, a Hanomag.” I saw just a mass of something in the dusk.
Now I am righteously tired, time to nod off. Tomorrow in the ddm* I’ll shuffle to my vehicle, collect my co-driver, brave her terrible good mood and communicational eagerness, and will avoid to hit any wild boar on the road.
Now let’s listen to nice music : Here is the Ed BICKERT Trio with Do Nothing ‘Till You Hear From Me. Sadly it ends a bit abrupt, but no fear, just some seconds are missing. I hope you enjoy the music, may it be a good week for all of us.




* damndarkmorning, thanks to Savannah

Sunday Music, Monday Edition

I spent the weekend mostly sleeping, coughing, or in hot water in my bathtub. Yesterday I went out and visited the university’s library, for the first time in ages. I need to refresh my knowledge on some specific subjects, preferably fast & over the next few days. I hope the cerebellum will jump-start without spluttering.
Work was work, mostly uneventful.
Some interesting things happened in the world, for example the German Bundestag, our parliament, came together for its first & constituent meeting after the election (Ger., Eng.). With more than seven hundred members it is a pretty large convent nowadays, and fascists are there too, 94 to be precise. One should not forget that the fascists are the strongest party in Saxony. Experience from the state parliaments shows that they fail in these institutions, usually. One may wonder what will happen here in the future.
While fascists came into the Bundestag our Eastern neighbour, the Czech Republic, elected a new “leader”, who fits perfectly into the pattern of Eastern European “leaders” we have to deal with now. Austria included. In fact it all looks a bit like “K.u.k”-revisited. On the same day the Hungarian “leader” gave a speech. He declared East-Central Europe for “migranten-frei” / “migrant free”, not a mean feat against the combined efforts of “Europe” and the “Jewish capital” – heck yeah, this is what he said : It’s the good old “Welt-Finanzjudentum”. Don’t get fooled : This guy knows exactly what he says, knows exactly what words he uses, this is no mistake.
It is all pretty sickening, I really thought we would have left this shit behind us. But obviously there are societies that prefer old “explanations”, and prefer to repeat all the inhumane nonsense previous generations already have lived through : There is no progress in human development, there is no automatic enlightenment, there is no “learning from history”.
But there is automatic learning – and I find this very very interesting : I talk about the new “go” playing computer / software / intelligence.
You may remember that roughly 18 months ago a machine won (Ger., Eng.) over the then reigning world champion, Lee SEDOL (Ger., Eng.). This computer was called “AlphaGo”, consisted of pretty powerful hardware, and used at least two nets of “neuronal software”, among other sophisticated stuff. This “neuronal” software is good at learning, and “AlphaGo” learned, it was fed thousands of human go-games, and played against itself.
Soon a better version came, “AlphaGo Master” – it still learned by the input of human games, and swept away the best sixty go-players of the world in early 2017.
Now we have “AlphaGo Zero”. With only one neuronal net, with remarkably less sophisticated hardware, “Zero” was given the rules of the game only – nothing else, and played against itself. After three days “Zero” played against his “grandfather”, the machine that had triumphed over SEDOL – and beat the older machine 100:0.
After additional training – that is, playing with itself – “Zero” stood against “Master”, and beat it 89:11.
The remarkable thing about all this is that the new machine was not given any examples of how humans play the game : The machine did learn it all out of itself.
Read it here.
I have no clue what this will mean for us humans in the future, but I know that it is important. Many things in our daily lives are already run by algorithms, by machines, by software. Now it learns – without our example : The thing emancipates itself.

But enough, the future is in a murk – what a nice word, MsScarlet gave it to me when she described her outlook towards Dartmoor (here she shows her garden).
But this Sunday Music not only needs, but lives from “murk” – Truls MØRK (Ger., Eng.) and the Artemis Quartet give us their version of movement 3 Scherzo of SCHUBERTs String Quintet D956 (Ger., Eng.). I hope you enjoy the music, may we all have a peaceful week without crashing computers, and nasty “algo”-rythms.