Saturday, August 08, 2009

That's So Retarded

The past couple of weeks have been real back breakers.

We renovated our flat in Causeway Bay but only paid “professionals” to do part of it. We had a non-weight bearing wall removed and the floor in that area redone and the area rewired. We would have had the professionals do the whole thing but they kept finding additional charges beyond the contracted price.

So, in the back of the flat rather than paying a painter and then paying him some more I did it all myself. I must admit that I still have the noble-savage bug and believe that every real man should know how to, and enjoy painting walls, building fences, sawing lumber, swinging a hammer and making furniture. Real men, or so my somewhat addled librarians’ mind thinks' know how to sweat and enjoy physical labor. But, painting in Hong Kong is just so frustrating because the painters are not only dishonest but stupid. They thin the paint thinking that it allows them to save a few dollars and then apply three or four coats of colored water rather than one or two coats of thicker paint.

That may, in fact save a tiny bit of cash except for three things that both relate to time.

First, it takes a lot more time to apply four coats than does one or two. If they didn’t thin the paint then they could finish faster and have more time for other jobs. They’d also spend a lot less time cleaning up because thicker paint drips less and makes less of a mess.

Second, thicker paint sticks to the wall better. But, because the painters here excessively thin their paint, every time you paint an interior wall you must remove the old paint. If you don't then the new paint softens the old paint and the whole mess pulls the old paint off the wall and you end up having to paint the same wall twice after scraping the weak old and your new paint off the wall. So, in addition to having to apply four coats of thin paint, local painters have to also remove the old paint which also adds to the time and mess.

Third, the thinned paint does not stay on the wall as long so you must repaint more often. This might make the painters feel they will have more work and thus a higher income but it is frustrating for residents to have to repaint their walls every three years.

So in a rather stupid attempt to save a few dollars of paint that is, most of the time paid for by the person who owns the flat anyway, painters spend more time to provide a lower quality job.

I'm not even going to get into the fact that they use small, cheap brushes, only 100mm rather 250mm rollers and I've never seen one use a heavy bodied paint sprayer to save time.

I’ve painted more than my fair share of interior walls. I worked as a house painter in college. We’d go into a duplex rented to students and have 12 hours to repaint all the walls and ceiling and then clean up so that it could be rented out again in 72 hours. We NEVER had to remove any old paint. Even if the tenants had painted walls a dark color like black or purple we’d just use a an undercoat like “Kilz” and then apply a white or beige or other neutral rental property color on top. Two guys, two rollers, two roller trays, and various types of rollers to cover the highly textured ceilings and less textured walls, plastic drop cloths, several brushes, scrapers for bad spots, a tube of spackling and caulk for cracks, some towels, goggles to keep paint out our eyes when painting ceilings and a boom box or radio. We generally had a Coleman cooler with some soda, water and lunch stuff as well. Most of the apartments and duplexes we painted were about 1000 square feet of living space not counting closets which would be a 1800 square foot flat in Hong Kong. We'd paint these flats in one day for $800.00 and we provided the paint which cost about $75.00 to $100.00. Not a bad job if we could do two a week and a good job if we did three.

In Hong Kong we’d have starved. We’d have first had to use a product called “Standard Retarder” to remove the old paint. You apply this like paint with either a roller or brush. Unlike modern water based interior paints this stuff stinks to high heaven and is the real reason that your neighbors complain when you repaint a Hong Kong flat. After the Standard Retarder sits on the wall a few minutes it softens the old paint which must be scrapped off. You then have to let the wall dry or else the new paint will not stick properly.

An additional problem is created because the painters here do not use drywall board or sheetrock to cover the concrete or brick. Once again the painters are being penny wise and dollar foolish. Instead they use gypsum powder and mix it with a gelatin to make plaster that is then spread over the wall. The plaster is then sanded and the multiple coats of overly thin paint applied. But the Standard Retarder also takes this off. So, you have to reapply the plaster before you can repaint. If the builders here would seal and apply a fungicide to the underlying concrete wall then cover that wall with sheetrock, tape and bed the sheetrock to cover the joints and the texture and paint with non-thinned paint, renovations in Hong Kong would be a lot easier. Subsequent repainting could just simply be applying new paint over old. But no, they work so that every time you paint you have to remove everything down to the bare concrete. This adds not only time and money but a significant amount of waste and trouble. As paint is considered to be a hazardous waste; removing it from the walls to throw into a land fill is also not an environmentally sound practice when it wouldn’t hurt anything to simply leave the old paint on the wall under the new. The net result is that a flat which Howard and I could have painted in 6 hours winds up taking 3 days for at least three guys working 12 hours a day. But, they spend less on paint.

Doing stupid things that waste money and time appears to be endemic to many levels of Hong Kong. Especially if someone in the government can find any type of short sighted savings. There must be something in the curriculum at HKU because all the civil servant types have a real problem seeing that short term saving often translate into long term expenses. For example; The EdB is going to stop allowing disabled students stay in the school system past the age of 18 despite the fact that non-disabled students who fail a year or two can be in government schools until they are at least 20.

That is as stupid as thinning paint.

These students could really benefit from a little longer time in school. An additional two or three years would allow many of them to gain enough skills and education to become productive members of society with jobs instead a lifetime of being supported by families or on the Hong Kong welfare rolls.

EdB says “They’ve already received more funding than non-disabled students so they are not entitled to more.” So not only are the knuckle-draggers in the EdB stupid dip-shits'; they are cold hearted bastards as well. I wonder how long it will be before someone in the hospital authority says: “Hey, all you people who have had a heart attack or all you losers with diabetes, you’ve already received more than you fair share of health services. No more doctors visits for you.” Since the Civil Servants are moved from department to department probably not very long. Since the civil-servants have their own hospitals and medical system they would be exempt from such decrees.

As a sidelight to this, you gentle reader might be interested to know that the EdB just gave out 4 land grants for new International schools. One of the ones approved was for a British boarding school for the wealthy brats of the upper class whose undisciplined hellions have to be locked away so they won't die of their cocaine addition before they complete secondary school. Many of the students in that school will not even be from Hong Kong or stay in Hong Kong after graduation. They also have other educational options. One land grant that was turned down was the proposal from the Hong Kong based International Christian School (ICS) for a new school expressly for students with moderate to severe disabilities that cannot be placed in an inclusive classroom. ICS wanted to create an affordable option for disabled students. EdB didn’t think that was as important as allowing spoiled trust-fund babies an opportunity to live in a dorm with other societal parasites.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who thinks the entire EdB is really retarded

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