Coffee heat rising

Hot Pool Update

So Stupendous Pool Dude’s plan to de-haze the pool seems to be working. His strategy entails pouring vast quantities of liquid chlorine into the drink, keeping the chlorine levels at “5” for a couple of days and holding the pH up, whilst running the pump through the main drain, which he believes will circulate more water faster than the usual set-up, wherein water is pulled through the skimmer.

Today the water stayed fairly clear all day, throughout some of the hottest hours we’ve had this summer. Usually by the time the sun hits that water at mid-morning, the thing is London Fog.

Right now a storm is blowing in, complete with light show. That will blow large quantities of debris into the thing, which, since the strategy involves running the pump all day and all night, is likely to get sucked into the drain. I’m not going out there and shutting off the motor, partly because I do not wish to be electrocuted by a random lightning bolt and partly because I’m so tired I expect to be asleep by the time this storm ends, not out there skimming off the surface in the dark.

There is, after all, a limit.

Picked up another eight gallons of chlorine at the Depot today, four of which I’ve dumped into the drink. The chlorine level was down to nil this morning, and by 5:00 p.m. it had dropped back down from 5 to a little under 1 (read: almost absent).

That is an excessive amount of chlorine to dump into the water. However, if his theory is right, the water contains an excessive amount of microbes, which bloom into foggy life the minute the sun wakes them up.

SPD gazed critically upon a large brownish area on the floor of the deep end. He thought it was dirt. I said no, I believed it to be a discoloration caused by the large amounts of granulated chlorine I’d already dumped into the pool: this stuff settles to the bottom and discolors the spectacularly expensive PebbleSheen. He seemed to accept this.


At the Depot this afternoon, I found and picked up a type of pool brush that combines nylon with stainless steel bristles. This is supposed to work better on the damned PebbleSheen, which is virtually impossible to clean. It literally eats up your nylon pool brush.

When I got it home and tried it out in the deep end, I found that yes: it did roil up the brown stuff and fluff it into the water. The gunk probably is a combination of dust and algae.

But I couldn’t scrub it off the bottom very efficiently. I simply don’t have the physical strength to make a pool brush work against that impossible PebbleSheen stuff. If the pool is to be cleaned adequately, I’m going to have to hire a young man or (preferably) a teenaged kid to wrangle that job.

And…just as I was leaving the pool department, what should I spot but…hallelujah, brothers and sisters! A LEAF VAC WITH THE OLD DESIGN THAT ACTUALLY WORKS!

Leslie’s has replaced its old leaf vac model with a piece of junk that is so bad their staff actually tells customers not to buy it. The redesigned it and in doing so produced an item that does not work. Period. The one at Home Depot — a different brand — still has the same old structure around the bottom and the wheels, and still has the same old style of hose connection. Those changes inflicted on the Leslie’s version are, I believe, what cause the thing not to work. The HD model, with what looks very much like design identical to the old, functioning leaf vac, should do the job.

I certainly hope so, because come tomorrow morning there will be plenty of debris in the pool for it to vacuum up!

Report from Foggy Bottom

Yes! This afternoon’s first tentative signs that the London-fog pool might clear proved to be prophetic. By 7:00 p.m., the thing was clear as glass again!

And that was before I dumped in the recommended two gallons of liquid chlorine.

Aaron, the swim-pool dude, recommends that we drain and refill the pool because of the high phosphate levels. This will be another expensive endeavor, especially if we do it in the summer. In the past, the City of Phoenix, which dispenses water here, used to give you a special break on the price if you had to drain your pool, not something one wants to do. In the 16 years I’ve been in this house, the pool has been drained only three times. and the last time was so as to resurface the shell.

Water bills here can be higher than utility bills, which are bracing. The city jacks up its rates during the summer, which it bases on the amount you use during the winter. So the more water you use in the winter, the more they shaft you in the summer, when you most need the water to keep your yard alive, to run (energy efficient!) evap coolers, and to replace water evaporating from the pool.

Note that of late the City has taken to adding phosphates to the drinking water, by way of lubricating their equipment. This, rather than the untrimmed palm trees, explains why the phosphate levels have been so elevated.

Since I live on a flat amount per annum, and since I had to pull down the amount needed for the resurfacing job from savings, there’s no way in Hell I can afford to drain and refill the pool now. So it appeared we were looking at just accepting murky water until about next November. Thankyouverymuch, honored City Fathers.

As you can imagine, then, I was thrilled to walk out there this afternoon and find the drain covers in the deep end clearly and crisply visible.

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters!

Apparently when Aaron pulled out the piece of palm-tree debris he found blocking the pump’s innards, he fixed the problem.


I suspected something was wrong with the equipment but thought the issue was with the filter, not with the pump…though it must be said the thing was running with a slightly labored sound. Now it sounds fine, and it seems to be working fine.

The prospect of essentially shock-treating the pool with liquid Cl gave me some pause — two gallons is a lot. However, the water is extremely warm. Chlorine is burning off within hours — it was well into the “ideal” range at 11:00 this morning, but by 7:00 this evening was essentially absent. Had about the same chlorine level as the tap water.

We shall see, then, what the upshot is tomorrow. The Leslie’s guy says adding chlorine causes cloudiness. I’ve found the opposite to be the case, but some say shock-treating can cloud the water. If that’s the case, though, it should clear by mid-day, which is about how long a heavy dose of chlorine survives at this time of year.

A-n-n-d It’s Back to Nightmare Central

Okay, with any luck the Human is now recovered enough to cope with another headache-filled day.

When the Apple tech left off on Saturday, we still had not solved the problem with my MacMail. This was after a total of around six or eight hours wasted on the phone, wrestling with it.

Yesterday he had something come up and took a day off work. So this morning I called his extension & left a message.

Meanwhile, yesterday along came a demand, in the part of the email still working, that I pay for the use of iCloud. I believe this to be phishing, because the sender’s email was not at or anything even vaguely resembling it. Not impossible, though: right now the only way I can get at my email is through iCloud’s server: somehow my regular MacMail account has been disabled. But whatever: I am NOT paying for iCloud, a service that I do not want and that I highly resent having foisted on me.

While I’m waiting for him today, I guess I’d better prepare a mailing list for a message I can send out from Gmail, telling all my friends and business acquaintances to deep-six the Macmail address and use one of the old gmail addresses. This REALLY pisses me off, because compared to Apple’s mail program, Gmail is cumbersome to use and a damn nuisance, and of course, Google wants to serve you ads. I don’t see them, because I use an ad-blocker; but presumably ads will be sent, in every message, to my friends and clients. Which I do. NOT. appreciate.

Even more than I do NOT appreciate Google spying on every word I transmit through my private goddamn messages.

And mean-meanwhile, in the headache department: The swimming pool repair company’s guys showed up at 6:30 a.m. to start jackhammering the old plaster off the pool.

WHAT a freakin’ racket! This is an all-day project: they’ll be banging at the pool’s gunite walls until late afternoon or early evening. It’s one bitch of a job, and one gawdawful noisy job. Its only saving grace is that it must annoy the hell out of the annoying neighbor behind me: revenge for the business with the flammable debris dumped behind the wall on the 4th of July.

The thing is, these guys — all Mexican laborers, nary a one of whom speaks English — are working completely unprotected. They have no ear protection, no eye protection, and only a bandana tied over the face to keep the fine, lung-cancer-inducing plaster dust out of their noses.

And that is fuckin’ inexcusable. What does it cost to buy your employees — or contract laborers, which is probably how these guys are paid — a few pairs of ear-plugs, some cheap plastic goggles, and nose masks? Exploitive bastards.

Trying to think of a tactful way to suggest this to our honored pool company owners, but failing just now to come up with any polite words. Maybe I could send them away until Swimming Pool Service and Repair comes up with some basic safety and health equipment?

That, of course, will entail having to hire some other company to finish the job…presumably also with unprotected and probably illegal workers.

Welp, I haven’t heard a thing from the Apple guy. So it’s off to compile a list that can be sent out from Google, and then say good-bye to Apple Mail.

Pool a-filling

So Paul from Swimming Pool Service and Repair dropped by the day before yesterday to drain the pool. It’s pretty simple: drop a pump in the bottom of the deep end, stick its hose in the property’s clean-out drain, and plug in the cord. The pump runs so quietly you can’t even tell it’s on, except for the quiet gurgling of water running down the drain.

Here’s the result:

Took about a day to arrive at this pass. Paul came by yesterday morning to retrieve the pump and start the hose running. It takes two or three days to refill a pool this size with a garden hose. By 11:00 p.m. it was about a third full. I turned the water off late last night, partly because the spigot makes a noise that you can hear everywhere in the house—the sound of money pouring through the plumbing is not conducive to sleep—and partly because I’d repaired a small crack in the tile grout and wanted the silicone stuff to fully cure before the water reaches the tile line. The gunk should be fine by mid-afternoon, and I’m sure the water will be nowhere near the tile line anytime before dark.

Otherwise, the thing seems to be in pretty good shape: no cracks, crazes, or chips in the plaster. Water has gotten into the light on the shallow end, which of course you can’t see in that snapshot. Doesn’t matter to me though: I never turn the light on. If I’m swimming at night, I want the pool to be dark…that’s the whole point of swimming at night! It’s quite lovely in the water late on a summer evening.

When DIY doesn’t save much

In theory, my pool needs to be drained and refilled. Over time, hard-water particulates and chemicals build up in pool water, especially in Arizona low desert, where hard, salty water is now piped in from the Central Arizona Project.

I’ve resisted this for a year, since I’m always skeptical when someone comes up with an extra way to take my money away from me. However, it’s pretty clear they’re right: a band of white hard-water scale keeps building up on the tiles. Though it will wash off with in a hard spray from the hose, that job is a hassle under the best of circumstances and mighty unpleasant in the winter, when the air is cold.

Cost of the job is generally estimated at $200. An alternative to draining and refilling is to have a company come around with a gigantic filter in a truck and spend the day filtering the entire 18,000 gallons. That also costs $200. One way or the other, I figure I’d better get this done before my monthly income drops to half of its current munificent flow.

So. This morning I call Leslie’s. Their CSR quotes a price of $95.

Izzat so? say I.

Well…yes, but: the $95 is just to have a guy come over here with a pump, drop it in, and turn it on. I could do that myself, and I’ll bet the rental would be a darn sight less than ninety-five bucks. No chemicals, no start-up, no nothin’ else is included. I ask how much the chemicals would be. He doesn’t know: you have to go to your local Leslie’s store to find that one out.

I call Swimming Pool Service and Repair, the outfit that rebuilt my pool after it was vandalized. Alyssa, their longtime despatcher, says it’s $185 to drain, refill, and restart the pool. That includes the chlorine, stabilizer, and acid, and yes, they do the entire job for you.

Back on the phone, this time to the local Leslie’s outlet. How much for the chemicals to restart 18,000 gallons of pool water?

Well. It’s $36 a gallon for the “conditioner” (which I take to mean stabilizer but am not sure), and you need two gallons. Then you need the shock treatment, for which he did not quote an amount but which I know to cost a little over $8, plus the usual 8.3% sales tax. So now we’re up to $86.64, and we haven’t paid for acid, which I happen to have on hand and which he doesn’t think will be needed anyway but which we know will be needed because CAP water tends to the basic. So for a mostly DIY project, I’d pay at least $182, compared to $185 to have someone who knows what he’s doing come and do the whole job for you.

Factor into the equation that if you dork with the chemicals yourself and mess it up, it’s your problem; if a pool company applies the chemicals and something goes awry, they’ll come and fix it.

Interesting play on consumer psychology. Leslie’s strategy of having you buy and pour in the chemicals leads you to assume that you’ll save money by doing part of the job—probably the most difficult part, we might add, given that these caustic compounds need to be applied carefully and in the right order. Consider the advantages to Leslie’s:

• Leslie’s collects $95 for about a half-hour of an employee’s time and the wear & tear on one submersible pump.

• Leslie’s sells you the chemicals at the retail price instead of including them, at wholesale, as part of the job.

• Because the consumer does most of the work, Leslie’s doesn’t have to pay an employee to do the entire job and do it right.

• Leslie’s escapes any liability for incorrect application of chemicals—the company doesn’t have to stand behind the quality of work done when it does no work.

• The consumer, after paying the full retail price for the chemicals, assumes all responsibility and liability for their use.

By the time taxes are paid on the Swimming Pool Service and Repair bid, their fee comes to about $195. In the best-case scenario (which experience suggests is never the likeliest scenario), Leslie’s underbids Swimming Pool Service and Repair by about $13, but I end up doing all the work, and I get no warranty or service support whatsoever.

Makes that extra thirteen bucks sound like a bargain, doesn’t it?

Easy pool-cleaning shortcut

If you have a pool, by now you’ve probably figured out why people who live in houses with pools say the next house won’t have one. Maintenance is a day-to-day work in progress. A large work in progress. A lot of work… In progress, always.

One of the pool owner’s least favorite tasks is sweeping down the walls. Miss a few days, and you’re likely to get a fine green coating of algae, especially when the weather’s really warm. An even less beloved job is scrubbing the tilework around the water line.

The one on the left is best.
The one on the left is best.

Here’s a strategy that eliminates brushes, wands, scouring pads, and sweat. Get yourself a squirt nozzle for the garden hose—the small, nonadjustable variety that does nothing but make a hard, sharp needle-like stream. The bigger ones that adjust from a fine spray to a sidewalk-washing squirt don’t work as effectively for this job.

Attach it to the hose and turn the water on full blast. First spray off the tiles. If it’s warm enough to get into the water, drag the hose in with you, and you can actually knock off a light calcium deposit by holding the nozzle a few inches from the tile and slowly working the spray back and forth.

Then you’ll find that lo! You can easily wash the dirt and settled leaves off the steps and seat. And if you hold the nozzle parallel to the pool’s wall and swing the hose back and forth, it will wash all the dust and algae right off the wall.

A hose and spray nozzle work better for this job than a pool brush on a wand, because you can get into curves, run along the joints between the steps and the floor, and wash off the brightwork around underwater lights and ladders, the joints around the outside of water valves, and those gadgets used to hold volleyball nets.

In the summertime, you need to add water to make up for evaporation, and so washing down the walls and tile with a hose and nozzle kills two birds with one stone: you can clean and refill the pool at once. This technique gets the pool walls very, very clean, and instead of being a tedious chore, it’s actually kinda fun.

Caveat: don’t let loose of the hose inside the pool while water is running. The hose and brass nozzle will snake back and forth; if the nozzle strikes the plaster, it could cause damage. And of course, you should never let a child do this unsupervised, even one who swims well.