July 22, 2006

Dirty Deeds

I am a bit of a magpie when it comes to acquiring tidbits of information (usually useless), but I confess that an intimate understanding of the workings of a septic system was not even on my distressingly long list of Things I Still Need to Find Out. For those fortunate readers whose homes are connected to municipal waste water systems, the concept of actually keeping effluent on the premises must seem a little bizarre, but there are many places, even in technologically advanced countries, where this is a fact of life. However, the situation is usually not something we think about, and like most people my interest in the subject ends as soon as I flush.

Well, all that changed last week, when during the course of some fairly routine and minor bathroom renovations, the whole issue came (ahem) to the surface. Within the space of a day, the cost of the internal improvements was eclipsed by the unplanned expenses outside, my back yard and garden were transformed into a smelly version of a mining site, I was introduced to a whole new subculture, and I learned more than I really wanted to about post-flush events.

But fear not. I do not propose to share my new-found knowledge. The above account is merely to introduce the subject of yet another scam to which the innocent public can easily fall prey.
It goes like this:
  1. Householder notices unpleasant smell (or worse) indicating the septic system may be malfunctioning.
  2. Householder calls trusty plumber, whose exorbitant fees are more than justified by some of the jobs he has to do.
  3. Trusty plumber fiddles around with long bendy rods, plungers, and other mysterious items and announces that "The system must be blocked". Householder nods nervously, thinking back over what could possibly have been introduced to the system to block it, and by whom.
  4. Trusty plumber disappears into the garden and starts stabbing crossly at the ground until he eventually finds the long-buried concrete tank.
  5. Said tank is then excavated (usually by apprentice plumber), with blithe disregard for any plants or paths in the vicinity.
  6. Having refreshed himself with the householder's tea and cake while the apprentice worked, the plumber now rolls up his sleeves, lifts the lid off the tank and investigates.
  7. The householder, faint with horror and embarrassment at what might be discovered, has retreated to a quiet darkened room to await the verdict.
  8. Plumber returns, wiping hands ineffectually on dirty rag, and announces "I found the problem. Your tank's full. You need to get it pumped out as soon as possible - I'll arrange it if you like." Weak with gratitude at not being invited to come and see for themselves, the householder accepts.
  9. Huge smelly truck duly arrives the following day, a long wide-bore hose is unfurled, and distressingly graphic noises over the next hour or so indicate that the household waste is finally leaving the property.
  10. The large account is promptly paid by the grateful householder, who is then left to spend the rest of the day re-burying the tank and trying to restore the garden.
  11. Repeat every few years as required.
So where's the scam? It's brilliantly simple, and relies completely on points 7 and 8 above. Sublimely confident that no householder in their right mind will actually want to look at a tank of effluent, the plumber can claim that the tank needs emptying, and then cheerfully pocket the "consideration" passed to him by the tank-emptying man whose services were not, in fact, required at all.

Here are the true facts, which I learned from someone who opted out of this lucrative arrangement:
  • Provided the system is working correctly, a septic tank for a 2-person household should not need to be pumped out any more frequently than every 10-15 years if at all. For a larger household, the interval may be as short as 5-7 years, but no more often than that. So now you know.
Be brave, breathe through your mouth, and go look for yourself. You might have to find a new plumber, but you'll save a lot of money, and you'll have struck a welcome blow for Honesty.

July 13, 2006


The Girtie song may be our sanctioned National Anthem, but I have recently seen a poem which should get equal billing:

Echidnas can't float on inflatable boats.
Can't lounge on inflatable chairs.
Can't lay on their backs on clear bubble wrap.
They're tragic, but who really cares?
Get called things like Millie.
And names just as silly.
As porcupine hedgehog and such.
And their long razor spikes.
Aren't to get kids on bikes.
But I think that they'd like to as much.
There's just no romance.
For a guy who sucks ants.
And just how many ants can one take.
But if they were able to sit at a table.
I bet they'd love pizza and shake.
So don't take it hard.
If there's one in your yard.
Allow it it's time in the sun.
For despite their odd features.
They're our Aussie creatures.
Echinas, well they're number one.

Briyant, innit?

(Thanks ishtar :-) )

July 10, 2006

Is This The Real Me?

I had a bit of fun today playing around with my appearance, in a free, reversible, and non-surgical way - courtesy of Yahoo's avatars.
The end result is a combination of how I see myself and how I'd prefer to see myself, mixed with just enough truth not to be a complete parody.
Yahoo! Avatars
I'll own up to one inaccuracy (and that's all!) - none of my dogs have any black markings. ;-)


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