What are the odds?

By JoAnne Hewett | October 13, 2005 1:25 am

Today, I continued on the deck staining project (as mentioned in a post yesterday). I needed a newspaper to put under the brushes and can of stain. Yesterday was recycle day, so I threw out all my old newsprint. Scouring the garage, I came across an old newspaper, still covered in plastic. I took it out of the plastic, picked a few pages at random from the middle and placed it under my can of stain. About an hour later, dipping my brush into the can, I saw this headline staring out at me:

Bloggers Learn the Peril of Posting Too Much Information

The paper was the San Mateo County Times (I don’t subscribe, it is randomly tossed into my driveway) from July 9. And yep, it’s that article that Risa has mentioned.

If I were superstitious, I would say this was an omen. Of what, I’m not sure, but if I were superstitious that wouldn’t matter.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Excellent. It’s always interesting to observe myself when thigns like that happen to me.

    This post reminds me…. I know tht you’re staining, whcih is a different thing altogether, but I have a related question. I’ve been meaning to reseal the paint job on the floor of a deck here at my place. I think it is supposed to help a bit with waterproofing/runoff. Is there a special thing called “deck paint”, or do you just use some type of paint that is waterproof. Do you recommend a particular type of deck paint, or is it a fairly standard pigment/material? It’s always that greenish stuff that I see everywhere…is that universal/generic, or are there ones that specialists recomment over your garden variety?



  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/joanne/ JoAnne

    Oh goodness Clifford, I’ve been spending more time on this than I care to admit! In fact, I’m so disappointed with the job my stain did last year and that I have to re-apply it this year already, that I am planing a science experiment on deck stains over the winter. I am buying several recommended stains, applying them to virgin chunks of wood, throwing the chunks out to the elements over the winter, and seeing how they each perform. I know that the stain reccommended to me by my hardware store guy simply isn’t up to the task. I think he just wants to sell more stain!

    So, Clifford, your problem at hand. You say that you have paint on your deck. There is really only one solution – repaint it. You could just use paint, I guess, but there are also special deck stains that are fairly solid and look like paint. That would be best, I think, as the stains are supposed to soak into the wood. Thing is, since you don’t know what you have on the deck, you probably need to strip it and start over. Gosh, that’s alot of work – I know!

    You could try something like Thompson’s waterseal, but I wouldn’t expect that to last more than a few months. And I’m not sure you can apply it over paint. Keep in mind that UV, as well as water, does alot of damage and that we here in CA get alot of UV. My stain actually held up kinda OK during the winter rains, but it died during the constant summer UV.

    Good luck!!!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Thanks JoAnne. I certainly don’t want to be doing stuff that intense, such as ripping up and starting again. No time to spare…. I think a repaint on top of the (cleaned first) old paint is in order. There’s no obvious damage to the present job, just lots of tiny cracks: I think it just needs a routine repaint…I was just wondering what sort of paint you might have found works well for you – if you’ve ever used paint on one before.



  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2005/09/cft-and-tomato-soup-can.html Plato

    Blogging your Way

    I did some research here, and some of the legal implications of revealing to much. But I like Clifford’s views on bringing science to the public, as well as the Quantum Diaries. Other scientists, who are engaging this medium, is also doing society a great favour.

    10 Things We Learned About Blogs

    Radio had its golden age in the 1930s. In the 1950s, it was television’s turn. Historians may well date the golden age of the blog from 2004รขโ‚ฌ”when Merriam-Webster.com’s most searched-for definition was blog. How long can it last? Who knows? Here’s what we discovered about the new medium this year By CHRIS TAYLOR

    Blog reading explodes in America

    The rise of blogs has spawned a new desire for immediate news and information, with six million Americans now using RSS aggregators.


    At a Suit’s Core: Are Bloggers Reporters, Too?

    A lawsuit filed in California by Apple Computer is drawing the courts into that question: who should be considered a journalist?

    The case, which involves company secrets that Apple says were disclosed on several Web sites, is being closely followed in the world of online commentators, but it could have broad implications for journalists working for traditional news organizations as well.

    If the court, in Santa Clara County, rules that bloggers are journalists, the privilege of keeping news sources confidential will be applied to a large new group of people, perhaps to the point that it may be hard for courts in the future to countenance its extension to anyone.

    “It’s very serious stuff,” said Brad Friedman, who describes himself as an investigative blogger (his site is bradblog.com). “Are they bloggers because they only publish online? I think you have to look at what folks are doing. And if they’re reporting, then they’re reporters.”


    As with any new adventure there are going to be dangers and learning to use this medium to help educate is the greatest thing I can think of right now. I am not alone in this thinking of what you scientists can do for us in bringing science into our living rooms, in a responsible way.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/joanne/ JoAnne

    Clifford, I’m using a linseed oil stain (it’s actually clear/transparent when dried so is supposed to, in principle, show off my beautiful new redwood) so I can’t recommend a paint. I would try Home Depot first – they use the Behr brand. And then check out a local paint store for a second opinion and see what they recommend.

    There’s actually quite the story associated with my deck. Stanford has quite good housing programs for their faculty (otherwise we couldn’t afford to live here!) and they own 65% of my house. But they have very strict rules – I had to promise to replace the termite destroyed deck before I could purchase the place. I got estimates from contractors in the neighborhood of $100,000 (the house has an extensive amount of deck, about 60 feet off the ground). So I was totally panicked! A friend talked to a friend at the gym and recommended Carlos and Nicolas who agreed to perform the labor, if I bought the materials. I knew nothing about Carlos and Nicolas, but the price was right and thus had no choice. So, I got a crash course in lumber. I became a pro at walking into lumber shops (talk about being the only woman in a place!) and ordering just the right amount and kind of lumber. Carlos and Nicolas built a beautiful deck, and are now building their own house back in their own country with the profits. Carlos, by the way, is an electrical engineer by training.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Did you wear a lumberjack shirt while in the lumber yard? Trying to be authentic and all….


  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Waitaminute… $100,000 ! For a deck ?? My goodness. What is it made of? Oh…. Carlos and Nicholas plus lumberjack stint allowed you to come in significantly under this amount? I see. Were you tempted to build it yourself at any point? This is one of my problems… I always get tempted to teach myself some new technique and then just do a job/task myself. Always forgetting that I don’t have all the time in the world….


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  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2005/09/cft-and-tomato-soup-can.html Plato

    What are the odds…

    I’m having mine durdeked with new railings that we can see through…certainly not 100,000. but, a lot better then using wood to the elements(cedar and quarter round decking). Plus, it provides for living area underneath.

    It’s replacing a bad contractor work that by son had to structurally redo…bla bla bla:)

    ah so the article was really about deck building? That’ll work wonders on your resume’.:)

    I like the idea of expeirmental research though on wood weathering. I had that same idea on fiber construction of paper products. Actually left in the elements for a couple of months to see how it would deteoriate.

    Non! I think I’ll use and have used products that do not deteoriate and rot to soon. Made me thnk about new home constructionan and all, in tornado alley. Europeans like concrete and brick so why not build accordingly?

    Oh it’s about blogging, sorry:)Oh no, its about a day in the life..knock knock. No it’s about why one didn’t get tenure, remember?

    So let’s remember the “rules of blogging” then shall we. Dialogos of Eide and what our ancestors did for us in Solvay while they pondered their interesting thought experiments in dialogue.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2005/09/cft-and-tomato-soup-can.html Plato

    Just hit me…so who was the real Shakespeare?

  • Arun

    Here in NJ, rainy, moist climate, Home Depot’s Behr stains seems to work well for me; the procedure being to power-wash and (re-)stain. The Home Depot Husky 1750 electric power washer also worked out well this time round, though having only recently purchased it, I can’t speak to its longevity.

  • http://www.phys.washington.edu/~anelson Ann Nelson

    Having owned 3 decks now, I say the facts of decks are that :
    Painted decks need repainting about once a year and you need to use oil based paint.
    Never paint oil based paint over latex. Painting only takes a few hours so this yearly maintenance job is not a big deal.

    Stained decks need restaining less often, maybe only once every three years.
    It is crucial to use exactly the the same brand of stain each time and to powerwash.

    Converting a painted deck to a stained deck requires days of sanding, much more integrated work than just repainting.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Ann, thanks! I think it is the same oil-based paint on all the decks at present, so I’ll be down at my local hardware store armed with everyone’s advice. (I’ll just be repainting…not trying to go for a fancy stain job.) Then it will be all hands -and knees- on deck for a long while.

    One last thing: Big brush, or roller, for application? I’m guessing rollers are not appropriate….would give a finish to the surface that I’ve never seen on a deck before….. (?)


  • JoAnne

    Clifford, brush, definitely. Been told numerous times to never use a roller on a deck.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Yep JoAnne…. That advice was on the short list of things my mum told me to avoid before I left home for the big city, with my few possessions in a cloth sack over my back: 1) don’t talk to strangers, 2) stay away from loose cars and fast women, 3) never use a roller on a deck. …And, 4) don’t set your integration constants to zero without a damned good reason.


    P.S. And I blew it on two counts: I talk to strangers all the time….that string theory community to which I belong is full of strange folk… ๐Ÿ˜‰ …and it took two years for me to figure out the significance of an integration constant in one of my most interesting contributions to the field. So there. (ok…she didn’t say the bit about integration constants.)

  • Aaron F.

    Noooooooooooooo! I took a statistics class last year, and now whenever someone asks what the odds are, I feel compelled to actually think about what the odds are. It’s a curse! x_X

    But fortunately, I’m not so far gone that when something really portentious happens, I can’t ignore the large P-value and pretend it was fate. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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