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spikegifted.net - Archive Q3 2006

September 2006:
Work: I mentioned that one of clients was having a spot of bother. Well, the senior folks in were now questioning our business with the client, after being informed by someone who had very negative views on the name. This stank! The guy didn’t even have a business relationship with the client and was making all kinds of noise about it. The thing was that by making a whole lot of noise about the client, he made us in credit risk management looked bad, and I don’t like being made looking bad. My boss was now fully involved in the process and hopefully could provide some guidance as to how to tackle this thing.
Home: Five days were gone in a flash and before you know it, I was back on a plane on my way back to London. While I had the support of my cousin and my uncle during my stay in HK, it was the Ruler_of_spike that I missed the most. Her wise words and calming presence was sorely needed during my stay.
Home: It was hard to gauge mom’s condition as it was changing almost every day. In the five days that I was in HK, her temperature was fluctuating up and down, and her level of awareness was always changing. She was very sharp on a couple of the days and other times she was not. The medical professional were obviously only giving out cautious remarks regarding her situation. The problem was that such remarks were open to a whole range of different interpretation – from very optimistic to very pessimistic. This was not good for the nerves...
Home: Finally, the day has arrived to fly to Hong Kong to see the situation with my mom. This was going to be a heck of a trip - a tough one. I left work on the Thursday and went straight to the airport and arrived on time in HK on Friday late afternoon local time. As soon as I left what little luggage I had with my cousin’s place, we headed straight for hospital. Although my uncle, through his e-mails, had been preparing me for this, the sight that greeted me was very hard to take in.
Home: It seemed like we're just spending forever working in our house. With the additional worry from Hong Kong, I felt under a lot of pressure - work, home and HK. Anyway, the work at home has to be done, so there's little choice but to get on with it. Pressure at work is always there, so there isn't much I can do except trying to manage it better. With these two activities fully occupying my mind and available time, there was actually little time to think about what's going on with my mom in HK.  
Home: With my mom's condition in Hong Kong looking worse by the day, I decided to make a short trip to go and see her and to find out in person what's happening to her. I was fortunate in that my boss has kindly arranged some compassionate leave from work, so my trip did not count as unpaid leave. As the date of my travel approached, my grew increasingly nervous of what I might find when I arrived.
Home: The annual cancer scan for the Ruler_of_spike was coming up. While it was desirable to get to Hong Kong immediately to see my mom in hospital, the health and well being of the Ruler_of_spike is always more important. So I made the decision to depart for HK after the mammograph session. In that way I would at least have the peace of mind that everything would be safe in the UK while being out in HK.
Home: More unwelcoming news from Hong Kong. I was informed that my mom was readmitted into the intensive care unit with a collapsed lung. Apparently, the doctors found the reason for her to have a temperature, its because she has pneumonia. They managed to re-inflate her lung, but she's back in the ICU. The situation is getting critical and it appears that a trip to Hong Kong will be unavoidable. 
Home: It is great to start working in another part of the house. Now that the shelves in the living room is completed, it is time to get some paint on them. Our work load is substantially increased, not only because of the number of surfaces that need our attention, but owing to the fact that, for the most, part they are built using MDF (medium density fibreboard), we have to put down a couple layers of undercoats before actually putting on the paint proper. That's a whole load of fun!
Work: An interesting thing has just showed up at work... There appeared to be a spot of bother with one of my clients. I was wondering what action to take (there may be some negative effects on the client), showed the client's press release to my boss. After a short discussion, we decided that it was too early to read the situation fully and it would be inappropriate to take any knee-jerk reaction. So we decided to keep an eye on how things would develop and then go from there.
Others: What's in name? Chinese have names that are usually made up of the surname and one or two other characters. Despite that and in a city of millions, there are nearly 4,000 people with an identical name and a further 3,750 with another identical one. Looks like the folks over in China haven't been using their creativity to get some good names for their kids. (BBC News, Chinese)
Home: The builder finally finished most of the work in the living room and the dining room. He has done a very job overall and we're very happy with his creativity and end result. Of course, building the shelving and cupboards are just the beginning of the work. Owing to the rather time-consuming nature of painting, we've elected to do the painting ourselves rather than paying him to watch paint dry. So that's yet more painting to be done. Looks like we'd be spending our weekends with paint brushes and rollers for a while.
Home: The news from Hong Kong continued to go down hill!! I was informed that my mom was admitted into the intensive care unit and in a very critical condition. My uncle told me that they found her to have difficulty in breathing and she was in quite a distressed state. At one point, the doctors put her under anesthesia so that she did not become too distressed and go into hyperventilation. I had conversations with the people over in Hong Kong and it was very hard to find anything to be cheerful about.
Home: After three weekends of painting, I finally finished painting the kitchen. This had to be the most difficult space to be tackled yet. The end result seemed to justify the effort though. We now have a nice bright kitchen. Perfect for the plans we have in mind.
Home: News from Hong Kong wasn't great. It would appear that my mom has great difficulties in looking after herself. I mean, she has difficulties in standing up, walking, dressing herself. The worst part was that she appeared to have severe memory loss. Things are going to be tough for her. The medical staff also can't figure out why she has a temperature. It would appear that she has some infection, but they can't figure out what, though.
Home: My builder didn't show up for another couple of weeks after we returned from holiday. That was because he was so far behind his work from his week of holiday in August. Anyway, credit to him, he started showing up during the weekends to try to get work job done. The trouble was that with him around, it really interrupted our normal routine. We were also a little lazy after coming back from our holidays. Anyway, by the second weekend, we figured out what was going on and we just got on with our own work. This time, it was the kitchen that got our attention. We picked up some special paint for high humidity environment and we proceed to paint the place. With all the cupboards and shelves around the place, it was not an easy job to paint the place. To add to that, it was very greasy high up on the walls. I dread to think how the previous owner and his family was living like.
August 2006:
Home: I received an e-mail from one of my uncles that my mom has been admitted to hospital. It would appear that she has suffered a fall and may even have suffered a stroke. Details were a little hazy as nothing was clear. The hospital was having difficulties piecing together all her medical history for they were not computerized back when she had her health problems. I just hope that things will improve quickly for her.
Work: After the big efforts of July, the review calendar for August wasn't nearly as ugly. However, owing to the two-week holiday, I was still under a bit of pressure on certain reviews. Also, there were still some new business that needed my attention. So there is very little relieve for the busy schedule.
Home: It was nice to come back to the house and see that the kitchen was nearly finished. The problem was that the builder was away for a week when we were away. So there wasn't as much progress as we have hoped. However, the kitchen is now nicely tiled and all the cupboards that needed fixing had been fixed. We could get on with the job of painting the place.
Home: It is just a bliss to go away. We have our usual two weeks away in France with the family of the Ruler_of_spike. The weather was ok - not as hot as it was in the UK during July, so it was a bit of a relieve. It rained for a couple of days, so we took the opportunity to go to visit some furniture shops and DIY stores to get some ideas for the house. All in all, it was a good couple of weeks away from work and away from all the work in our house.
Home: At last, we found a builder and he started working in our house. However, owing to a mix up in our communication, he must have thought that we were away that he started working. So the first thing he did was the kitchen. So you can imagine my surprise when I returned home to find that my fridge and cooker are both in the dinning room and there were tiles in the kitchen. Needless to say, it wasn't possible to cook anything that evening. We went for our first take away in our new house. During the time when we were waiting for the delivery of our fridge, we always got food and cook in the house. It was almost a novelty to go for a take away. There isn't much of a choice near where I live and I chose the Chinese take away. I should have followed my instinct and went elsewhere - the name of the take away restaurant was "McDragon"... Very questionable. To conclude this rather unfortunate episode, I can confirm that the food was horrible. Neither the Ruler_of_spike nor I could finish the food we ordered. That will be the last time walk through the doors of that establishment.
Home: With summer vacation looming, it was important to mow the lawn… I have to admit, after the painful experience of the first cut, there was a lot of trepidation prior to getting on with the job. However, the weather in July was so dry that there was very little growth, so it was not too difficult. It was good to get it out of the way though.
Home: Pushing along with our decoration, we spent yet another weekend with paint brushes. This time our target was the porch area. This was probably the smallest space in the house. Yet, the same problem as the sitting room existed: after three coats, the walls looked ‘mint’. Luckily, just like in the living room, after the last coat was dried and settled, the walls showed up white. Another room done.
July 2006:
Home: I had to take a day off work to wait for the delivery of our couch. I always wondered why these delivery companies don’t like to give their customers narrower time slots than either “morning” or “afternoon”. Worse than that, the couch manufacturer kindly informed me that they couldn’t even tell me whether it would be “morning” or “afternoon” delivery. So I had to wait around. All is not lost though - there were some gaps between the floorboards and I could spend the time fixing them. First though, I picked up some material: a big of saw dust (that’s GBP1.50p for a bag the size of an army duffle bag!) and some glue. That was done just prior the delivery of the couch just after noon. So I had the whole afternoon to work on the gaps. After the glue and saw dust mixture was dried, I gave the floorboard and the filling a quick sanding, and followed by a coat of vanish. There were good news and bad news, though. The good news was that the floorboards are now nice and smooth. The bad news was that, even with the finest saw dust, the fill gaps looked like they’ve been filled with saw dust, rather than a more ‘natural’ look.
Home: Just like the previous two rooms, I got down to varnish the stripped floorboards after painting the walls and ceiling. The living room will be heavily used, so it was important to put not two but three layers of varnish to protect the wood. After the second coat was dried, I decided to use a very fine sandpaper to give the wood a very light sanding. To my amazement, the light sanding actually gave the floorboards a much smoother finish after the third coat. This was a revelation. I notice that the floorboards in the main bedroom and the spare room 1 were a little rough to the feet, the improvement with the light sanding showed that it was well worth the effort in sanding before the final coat. I aimed to do that in the main bedroom.
Home: Carrying on with the momentum from the previous week, we tackled the living room. There was particular motivation in completing this task - our couch was being delivered in the coming week and it would have been a major inconvenience if we had to complete the painting with the couch in the room. After three coats of paint, I was at the end of my endurance. The problem was that despite so many coats of paint, the original color (green) was still showing through! I was convinced that my eyes were playing tricks on me. We sure didn’t have this problem when we were painting the main bedroom (green) and spare room 1 (blue and lilac). Anyway, after four coats of paint, the walls appeared to be ‘mint’ at places! I was nearly in tears. The Ruler_of_spike suggested that owing to the strong daylight outside and the close proximity of the tree in the front garden, the light that gotten in to the living room actually had a green hue. I was ready to accept any excuse. However, and quite fortunately, after the paint was dried and settled, I checked the walls again and to my relief, the walls were definitely white.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike decided to spend a week in France with her family... I didn't blame her. All you had to do was take a look at the state of our house and you could understand. Anyway, while she was away, I tried to get more painting done. The stairway turned out to be a lot more problematic than I originally anticipated. I ended up stripping the wall entirely. As an added bonus, there were a lot of holes to patch up on the wall - horrible plaster stuck to the paint and wallpaper. With work during the day, I was pretty tired by the time I get home, so I didn't complete as much as I hoped. Anyway, the stairway was done. I also managed a couple of coats on one of the living room walls. It was nice to be able to give the Ruler_of_spike a surprise when she got back. 
Home: Did I mention that we have a back garden? Well, we do. Actually, it is not so much a garden as a patch of green area - the previous owner never looked after the garden and we were told that the house was not lived in for over 3 months prior to our acquisition. Can you imagine the shape of the garden? The grass was waist-high!! The number of species of weeds represented would have made any ecologist proud. The grass wasn’t so much like grass - they were too thick, it’s more like hay. Anyhow, despite the ugliness, there’s nothing much other than cut the darn thing down. After investing in a trimmer, I spent upwards of 3 hours and 3 replacement trimming cords, finally managed to get the grass down to a height suitable for a conventional mower. That was painful and I would hope that I won’t ever have to do that again anytime soon. That was nearly the whole Saturday wasted on this business. I then spent the Sunday using lawn mower borrowed from our neighbors to mow the place. We ended up having 6 big bags of grass. Had we owned horse or something, the grass/hay would have been great, but we didn’t and they just make up a big pile of rubbish waiting for collection. It took a lot of time also - not much less than 4 hours with lawn mower. My arms were rather numb afterwards.
Home: Next up was the main bedroom. Again, over a weekend, we managed to complete the painting of most of the room. There was still the ceiling to be done. That was left untouched because we needed the electrician to patch up couple of holes left from moving and removing the lighting in the room. The previous owner had some very strange ideas about lighting and they were not to our taste. In the spare time left during that weekend, we managed to paint the upstairs hallway also. How about that for efficiency.
Home: The replacement of the damaged fridge/freezer finally arrived. We had been eating very basic food for nearly three weeks - ready meals, pasta and whatever we can get from the supermarket - one meal at a time. Talk about an inconvenience. Now that the unit was here, it was such a relieve that we can plan our meals, one week at a time, again.