Another Adventure

Small hand.

It seems once one giant insurmountable self-imposed ordeal is finished, another quickly follows.

This time last year we were busy painting and decorating the house. That took far longer than expected and the summer months flew past. We were stuck inside wearing face masks and our oldest clothes, painting. By the time we were able to put our heads up, it was nearing winter.

We have had this summer to ourselves to enjoy. It will probably be our first and last quiet period for a while. We are expecting a child near the end of the year. Thus our time now is being spent preparing what we can, fretting about all we can not, and generally doing what soon to be first time parents find themselves occupied with.

Having managed to buy land and build a house in a second language, we now embark on the challenge of raising a child in an unfamiliar culture. I am keen not burden them more than they already will be. It is unsustainable to adopt a manner fitted to our mother countries. This child’s mother country will not be our own. We moved for the challenge and so the challenge continues.

Soon we will be attending prenatal classes in French. That should be a steep learning curve! Already the midwife appointments are confronting me with language and phrases I never expected to need to know.

We have a baby registry for those interested in sending a useful item or two. If you would like the details of the registry, please get in touch. Gifts for the little one are not expected but will always be gratefully received. For those who know us from a distance, and want to help, buying my software would be appreciated.

An Update – Hello World

Our little one has arrived. He and Megan are home and doing well.

Plastic Defects in Joby GorrilaPods

Megan took out her Joby GorrilaPod flexible tripod for the first time in a few months. When she picked it up and moved one of the flexible legs, it pulled away in her hand.

Broken Joby GorillaPod
Broken Joby GorillaPod

Three cracks had appeared since Megan had put down the GorrilaPod. It has not been heavily used or stressed. The plastic had cracked with age, not use.

Three cracks have developed over time in the Joby GorrilaPod.
Three cracks have developed over time in the Joby GorrilaPod.

We have previously replaced my GorrilaPods twice but no more. The last replacement failed quickly enough that I now actively avoid the Joby brand. I can not trust even the lightest camera to this style of tripod.

Metal Studs and TV Mounts

Range of mounting bolts.

Mounting our television onto our internal wall took more time and effort than expected. Our internal walls have metal studs and thus defy traditional advice aimed at wood studs or brick walls.

We had long planned to mount our television onto the wall. The height of the television sitting on a low cabinet was not enough. When I reclined, my feet blocked part of the screen. The screen needed to be higher.

The house was designed to provide a small cozy area for our sofa and television. A comfy area to sit and relax in. To make the most of the space and to get enough distance from the sofa to the screen, the television needed to be mounted on the wall.

When the house was constructed we took careful note of where the metal studs were in the wall. Now the walls have been covered with plasterboard and painted, these measurements came into their own. We were able to quickly locate and confirm the centre of a metal stud. A cheap stud finder bought for the purpose reassured us long before the first hole was drilled.

I picked a nice articulating television mount. The mount is an arm that allows us to adjust the television’s position and turn it ninety degrees left or right. We could, if we wanted, view the television from the main part of the room.

Being on an arm means much more stress will be applied to the wall. A statically mounted television only has to worry about the television’s weight. A moveable arm might have to deal with clumsy manipulation, pulling, and pushing that makes the static weight seem trivial.

The mounting arm came with three huge bolts, rawl plugs, and a claim to include everything needed. This claim was quickly proved wrong.

The bolts were a shade shorter than our internal walls are thick. Drilling the right depth hole would have meant putting the bolt, not only into our wall, but through our wall and out of the other side.

Supplied bolt compared to our internal walls.
Supplied bolt compared to our internal walls.

Our first unexpected purchase was for suitable bolts. Slightly shorter but no less thick.

I drilled the three required holes. Each one hit metal as expected before escaping into an insulation packed cavity.

Throughout the process we told ourselves we could repair any damage we did. Small holes such as these would be nothing compared to the gaping gouges we repaired before painting the house.

We told ourselves patching and repainting one wall was doable. Not welcome, but doable. We had painted everything else, so one more wall was doable.

Insulation exploded out from the top hole.
Three holes drilled. Insulation exploded out from the top hole.

With three permanent holes drilled into the metal studs, we inserted the supplied expanding rawl plugs. These are the type that, when the screw thread grips, compress the plastic and it balls up on the other side of the stud. Once balled up the plastic can not be pulled back through the smaller channel ensuring a strong hold.

The three fancy rawl plugs were thumped into the wall and we were ready.

Megan held the mount while I screwed in the appropriately sized bolts for our walls. Three loose bolts we had bought from our local hardware store, with now very familiar staff.

Two bolts went in firmly. The third kept turning. However much I tightened the bolt there was always another turn possible. The rawl plug eventually turned with the bolt. Maybe the plastic had expanded and the bolt was now safe.

Megan slowly let the mount take its own weight. It held. For a few seconds. Then the mount tipped forward away from the wall a millimetre and then another. It stopped there. Leaning forward, with too much play in the mount to be trusted.

Megan took the weight of the mount again. I undid the bolts one at a time, hoping each would come back out. They did. The third rawl plug now jutted out from the wall, so no flush finish would be possible with the metal plate of the mount.

Three expanding rawl plugs failed to take hold.
Three expanding rawl plugs failed to take hold.

I used pilers and surprised myself by easily pulling out the turning rawl plug. The other two seemed firmly in place.

We took a moment and chatted nervously about our options. We had expanding metal bolts in the basement. Known as Molly bolts in the USA.

We would try those next. A metal bolt is going to be stronger and better than a plastic rawl plug. A little more serious in approach but better.

The problem of the two remaining rawl plugs worried me. We were boring away an increasingly large hole of plasterboard around the drilled holes. Once broken, plasterboard crumbles easily and every touch makes it worse.

I tried again with the pliers and, using enough force to slightly wobble the entire wall, yanked the rawl plugs out. Disappointingly neither had expanded. The bolt had not triggered the mechanism. Worse, the metal stud had stripped the outer plastic protrusions from the rawl plug. They had been stripped smooth by the sharp metal. Useless.

Had we trusted those two firmer plugs, our television would not have lasted long on the wall.

We now had three larger than planned holes in our once beautiful new wall.

We committed to trying the Molly plugs. We could always fix a damaged wall. I hammered the metal plugs in. The small teeth around the head gripped into the plasterboard.

Three molly style plugs ready to tighten.
Three molly style plugs ready to tighten.

As before, Megan once again took the weight of the television mount and I started tightening the bolts. As I turned the metal plug’s teeth took and then the head snapped. A circle of metal uselessly dangling against the painted side and a chunk of metal plug now permanently stuck in my wall.

The head is designed to come off but not during installation. Not now.

We could fix this one plug.

But it did not take long to face complete defeat. We tried tightening the other two Molly bolts. With each turn the teeth held for a moment and then carved away the plasterboard. Without grip the metal plug and bolt rotated together eating away our wall. No grip, no expansion, and no compression to make the mechanism work.

I pulled firmly on the bolts and each ensemble slid right out of the wall. Two useless bolts and metal plugs in hand, and one forever entombed in our wall. The entombed metal plug I pushed into the wall cavity and down out of the path of the hole.

A moment of defeat.

We knew we were defeated for the day. After tiding up, we returned the television to the low cabinet. For the next week, each time we watched television three holes stared back at us.

Our chatter at night turned to accepting the television might actually be OK on a nice higher piece of furniture. Fix up the wall and forget it happened.

I did more research. Molly plugs continued to be suggested as a solution. They would have been, had we used a specialised tool to help tighten them up. We know that now but at the time such a tool seemed optional. A lesson learnt.

Molly tools to avoid damaging the plasterboard.
Molly tools to avoid damaging the plasterboard.

With the plasterboard around the holes damaged, we needed a different approach. I found and ordered a box of toggle bolts. Toggler is the brand we stumbled upon first. A clever bar of metal with a plastic widget attached. The plastic widget helps manoeuvre the bar into place within the wall. After that everything is metal bolted to metal.

Box of Toggler bolts and the complimentary wood stud drill bit.
Box of Toggler bolts and a complimentary wood stud drill bit.

When the toggle bolts arrived I was keen to get them fitted and complete the job. Getting them into place was tricky. They wanted a larger hole through the metal stud than I had drilled.

My latest drill bit was not large enough and a sawing action was my only option to widen the hole. The approach worked but felt awful. The toggle bolt needs to go through the hole sideways and then be twisted into place within the wall. The hole thus has to accommodate not just the metal bar but also part of the plastic widget.

After fifteen minutes of fiddling, pushing, and jamming the toggle bolts were in place. They felt secure and I could see they were in place before needing to the screw in the bolts.

I had done this last part with the toggle bolts alone. Megan was out teaching and I was too impatient to wait. Now I had to wait for Megan to come home. Fitting the mount itself was a two person job.

Megan was met by the sight of three protruding plastic strips and a husband keen to explain his achievements.

Three toggle bolts. Top two plastic tightened. Bottom bolt remaining to tighten.
Three toggle bolts. Top two plastic tightened. Bottom bolt remaining to tighten.
Three toggle bolts with plastic trimmed off.
Three toggle bolts with plastic trimmed off.

For the third time, Megan took the weight of the mount. This time, when she let go the mount held. It stayed in place with no trace of movement or wobble. We had gotten away without needing to repair or repaint the wall. The mount was secure.

Television mount secure and ready to use.
Television mount secure and ready to use.

We carefully completed the task of fitting the television to the arm. It took a while before we were comfortable fully extending the arm and placing the greatest strain on the mount and the wall fitting. It all held.

Fully extending the arm was nerve racking.
Fully extending the arm was nerve racking.

Since then we have altered the position of the television only a little. The new height of the screen is excellent and our cozy area is working well.

I am not rushing to drill any more holes in our walls just yet.

Malevolence

Entrance to 6ème's mairie

6ème has a reputation of being a nice arrondissement of Lyon. Like any area of a city, 6ème has its better parts and worse. When we moved here four years ago, I picked it based on research; the location had all we thought we would need.

6ème’s reputation reached further than we expected. An electrician involved in our house build knew of 6ème and joked that it was a nice area so he should charge us more.

On Monday, two men attempted to burgle our apartment while I was home.

The attempt was not the first incident in this building and our neighbours tell us this is not isolated to this building. Nearby buildings are also suffering increasingly from theft and vandalism.

Like any area, 6ème has better parts with buildings showing off carved façades and pretty squares. In particular I think of Brotteaux and towards the parc de la tête d’or; areas that sustain luxury car resellers and fancy boutique stores.

Brotteaux, Lyon, at night
Brotteaux, Lyon, at night
Entrance to 6ème's mairie
Entrance to 6ème’s mairie

The two men who tried to break into our home were opportunistic. The circumstances that led to them singling out our apartment are clear to us and unfortunate. I do not think they began their day considering entering another’s home but they did not set out that morning as saints either.

Numerous postboxes in our building were forced open or destroyed. What they were looking for I am not sure. What is of particular value in most people’s postboxes?

Our building is old, poorly maintained, and far from being considered a better part of 6ème. The residents are not wealthy or well to do. Our street has multiple laundrettes, a tattoo parlor has recently opened nearby, and graffiti provides a visual backdrop.

Woman walking near graffiti in 6ème, Lyon
Woman walking near graffiti in 6ème, Lyon
Tabac hoarding covered in graffiti
Tabac hoarding covered in graffiti
Man skateboarding along the street at night.
Man skateboarding along the street at night.

I should have called the police there and then.

Up until the last moment, I thought it a mistake. The actions of error or farce, not malevolence. Until the last moment I expected the situation to dissolve.

I was however ready. I knew I would have no opportunity to flee, so fight was my only option. The intruders would block my exit.

Recycling

Being out of the apartment at odd hours shows you a different city.

Our early morning runs reveal an activity I suspect most are unaware of. Bins are systematically checked by organised groups. Those involved are often well dressed men, frequently dragging a wheeled shopping bag, who work their way through bins left out on the street for collection. When sighted, they shroud their activity but often too late to go unnoticed. The streets are long and a runner approaches quickly and treads quietly.

I expected them to extract cashable items, such as broken electrics or reusable items, but they do not. I do not know what they are fetching.

Police

The two men suddenly gave up and ran back down the stairs.

Since then we had our first interaction with the national police. A new experience for us and one that I would like not to need again. A dossier will be created, a reference number assigned, and a record kept. Another statistic augmented.

What S Numbers Mean For Safety Footwear

I wear boots and I prefer steel toe capped boots. Recently I bought my first pair online sight unseen.

While researching my choices, I noticed many pairs of boots advertised an S number. Here is what those S ratings mean:

SB
  • Basic safety
S1
  • Closed seat region
  • Antistatic properties
  • Energy absorption of seat region
S2
  • Closed seat region
  • Antistatic properties
  • Energy absorption of seat region
  • Water penetration and water absorption
S3
  • Closed seat region
  • Antistatic properties
  • Energy absorption of seat region
  • Water penetration and water absorption
  • Penetration resistance
  • Cleated outsole
S4
  • Antistatic properties
  • Energy absorption of seat region
S5
  • Antistatic properties
  • Energy absorption of seat region
  • Penetration resistance
  • Cleated outsole

YouTube Content ID Abuse

My latest short film hit the brick wall that is YouTube’s Content ID system. This was the first time I have had an utterly misapplied copyright violation notice.

Other copyright notices have been raised on my videos but those have been for incidental recordings of music playing during public performances. I do not know the legality of those claims but they appear raised by the appropriate licence holder. Those claims are not my focus today.

I published my latest short film with a track of free music provided by The Passion HiFi. The music is appropriately licensed for use on YouTube:

  • Use them for TV, radio, Internet and film productions FREE of charge
  • Use these beats as backing music for your videos on Youtube as long as you state that The Passion HiFi is the copyright holder and the content ID is linked to the same beat on the iTunes store.

Sadly, YouTube’s Content ID system disagreed. A music label called Audiam claim The Passion HiFi’s content as their own – and can collect advertising income on it.

Audiam (label) claim The Passion HiFi's music.
Audiam (label) claim The Passion HiFi’s music.

It is worth noting Audiam is not a music label. Audiam is a company that enforces music licences and collects royalties. They describe themselves as:

Audiam is a music royalty collection agency trusted by the world’s publishers and songwriters.

Who gets to keep the money earned on incorrectly enforced licences?

Is The Passion HiFi represented by Audiam? Maybe but how can I tell? I have tweeted The Passion HiFI and await a reply.

The reply would not have changed my next step.

  • If yes, then new music is needed.
  • If no, then YouTube is in error and new music is still needed.

But knowing would be useful for the future. Should I avoid using tracks from The Passion HiFi? Might Audiam claim everything they produce; I do not know.

Move on.

The original version of my short film is gone. I removed it immediately from YouTube. Better to not give Audiam control. Better to not accept their claim. Better to not have to lodge disputes and risk my YouTube account’s standing.

I am not fighting. There are other choices.

Today I replaced the music and a new version of my Pérouges short film is available to enjoy. This time, I hope, the Content ID system will leave my work alone.

YouTube has a problem. The Content ID system is unbalanced in the favour of the claimed licence holder. The dispute process is broken and high risk for content creators.

I have no solution and propose none. I simply needed somewhere to note this passing moment of frustration.

Back to creating.

Update: 15 August 2016 – I have had no response from @Passion_HiFi.

Whirlwind Through Our Schedules

With our recent purchase of land in France, our world has become fiendishly busy. The sudden switch from waiting to action has taken our breath away. In a few weeks we will settle back into a routine but for now it feels like a whirlwind is tearing through our schedules.

Two regional French TER train engines.
Two regional French TER train engines.

This morning we confirmed an appointment, booked our hire car, and only then discovered potential train strikes may make our travels impossible. Having gone to some effort to clear our schedules for that appointment, the possibility of re-scheduling and moving the bookings is frustrating.

This is an uncertainly I dislike but have to endure.

Carnivorous Plant Eating a Bee

Bee on the edge of a carnivorous plant

This March we bought a carnivorous plant from our local garden centre. We wanted something to help keep down the number of tiny flies that like to buzz around our kitchen during the hotter months.

We ended up getting a sarracenia. This is not the traditional venus flytrap type of plant, but a lure down and digest them type of plant.

Until today, we had been wondering how effective the carnivorous plant was at trapping flies. The number of flies has dwindled to almost zero and the plant seems to be thriving, if growth is any indicator.

Despite these suggestions of success, we had not seen anything trapped by the plant.

Mother Nature

This afternoon’s performance would have been a good moment to show to children; a “teachable moment”, a phrase I hope never to actually utter. We watched enthralled as a sizeable bee flew into the kitchen through an open window, around the plant, then landed time and time again on the plant’s lethal tube like structures.

The bee was eating the sticky droplets around the edge of tube.

Bee on the edge of a carnivorous plant

After a few minutes of this, the bee became more daring and proceeded to crawl down one tube. Luck seemed to be on the bee’s side. The tube was too small and the bee was able to wriggle itself free.

Bee on the edge of a carnivorous plant

Bee on the edge of a carnivorous plant

The second time the bee ventured too far. The tube was big enough. We watched with mixed emotions at the sight of the bee struggling inside half way down the tube. Then suddenly the shadow of the bee slid all the way down. Firmly lodged, head first, into the tube. There it wriggled but with no possibility of escape.

Last moment before the bee slips into the sarracenia
Last moment before the bee slips into the sarracenia
The bee is trapped at the base of a sarracenia
The bee is trapped at the base of a sarracenia

A short film of the sarracenia and bee shows the final moments.