The Electric Octopus

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It was newlywed bliss in the Mr. & Mrs. HomeOwnerMan household.  They were living in a starter cave that HomeOwnerMan had purchased during his single years.  It was humble but it was where HomeOwnerMan called home for many years, and now he welcomed WifeGirl into it hoping that she would give it the loving touches that only a female super-hero was good at.

There was a finished attic in the place which made the cave a bit larger and had been the residence of HomeOwnerMan’s college roommate, EconoBoy, who made his living in the World Trade Center.  The HomeCave was attractive because of its proximity to public transportation into the Big City, so EconoBoy rented the attic for a time until he met and later married Leeblu-Woman. They moved out to the suburbs, and shortly thereafter along came WifeGirl, who at the time went under the name GirlfriendGirl. HomeOwnerMan thought this was a somewhat redundant name, but fell in love just the same.  But I digress.

WifeGirl made the large walk-in closet in the attic the home of her extensive wardrobe of spandex Lycra suits that all had “W” emblazoned across the chest.  She was a working super-hero, with corporate looking supersuits and a collection of tiny shoes that would have made Imelda Marcos proud.  One morning the light in the walk-in closet, which was a 65-year-old pull-string type, gave up the ghost and WifeGirl was unable to tell her taupe supersuit from her mauve supersuit in the low light.  So she asked HomeOwnerMan to replace the light.  He knew instinctively that the mystique of his identity hung in the balance of his ability to do a quick, clean, and high-quality repair on this, the first of many home repair jobs to come.

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Sizing up the job, HomeOwnerMan wanted to knock her socks off, so he decided he would not only replace the light but also add a light switch outside the door of the closet for added convenience.  He furthermore noticed that the wires were the original ones from 1926 when the house was built, so he thought he would replace them, too. So off to Home Depot he went. Lowes was not yet in business and Grossmans had just gone out of business; Square D was around but was lame.

He chose a nice sealed light fixture because the ceiling was low in the attic, and a clean-looking toggle switch, box, a wall plate, and plastic coated Romex wire.  He also bought a ceiling box because there was not one where the old fixture was.  HomeOwnerMan’s brother-in-law, Mayor McWeinerMinder, who at one time worked for the Electric Company (not the children’s show on public television but the actual power company), had given HomeOwnerMan personal lessons on wiring, so he knew that safety was always the right choice.

Turning the power off at the electrical box, HomeOwnerMan faced the reality that the one breaker was responsible for all the power on the second and third floors of the HomeCave.  So working in the ambience of flashlights, HomeOwnerMan taped the new wire to the old wires in hopes of easily fishing the new wires to the power source and to the wall switch. He started to pull on the one end.  To his delight the wires moved about a foot, but then abruptly stopped.  So he went to the other end, figuring there was just a snag, and pulled the wires back the other way.  Again they moved a foot and then stopped.  So he summoned the able help of WifeGirl.

WifeGirl was instructed to stand at the one end of the wire and, when given the HomeSignal, pull the wires towards her.  HomeOwnerMan would use a stethoscope, which was entirely useless in his short-but-dazzling medical career but was invaluable for things like working on his car and finding out what was crawling inside the walls, to listen to where the wires were moving.  So WifeGirl pulled, and HomeOwnerMan discovered that there were wires moving twenty feet away on the other side of the attic.  “This is bad,” he thought to himself.  The noise was coming from a recessed light. So HomeOwnerMan got started removing the fixture to investigate further.

electrical wire octopus

As he removed it all manner of dead wasps, leaves, sticks, straw, hay, Jimmy Hoffa, etc. fell out of the hole in the ceiling.  After making sure that no active wildlife had taken refuge in this hole, he began inspecting it using the most effective means available for a small hole – a make-up mirror and a flashlight.   To his surprise and enjoyment, there was an OCTOPUS of wires a scant one foot from the hole, which was easily pulled toward him for inspection. Needless to say the wires from the other two areas that he was previously working pulled toward HomeOwnerMan one foot, both being connected into this octopus.

At this point I should describe the octopus.  There were not less than ten sets of wires coming into it.  There was wiring from 3 distinct time periods: Romex from the contemporary era, mesh covered wires from the Neolithic period, and knob-n-tube wiring from the Paleolithic era.  The wires went to every outlet, light, fan, and switch in the room. In short, it was the power plant of the third floor, but it had all the makings of an incendiary device built by middle-east terrorists.  There was no such thing as a wire nut, junction box, or ground wire in the whole mess.  Instead, the whole entity was held together by carbon-datable electrical tape.

Here was the problem:  HomeOwnerMan needed to identify the wire which was carrying the power to the entire organism and isolate it from short-circuiting.   Otherwise, he would be unable to turn that circuit on at all rendering the whole second and third floors devoid of the new Edison electric lighting and throw the whole place back to pre-industrialization days.   After deciding that that would truly be a hassle, HomeOwnerMan began cutting all of the wires off the octopus one-by-one, labelling their probable function,  and taping them up with electrical tape.

With his superior intellect, HomeOwnerMan finally reasoned that the knob-n-tube wires were likely the power source since they were the oldest and the previous owners were undoubtedly too lazy to bother running new cable to the electrical box.  But, of course, reasoning was not enough; as a true scientist, he needed to test his hypothesis.  For this he again needed the help of his lovely assistant WifeGirl.  His instructions to her were simple.  “WifeGirl, run down to the basement and flip the breaker.  If it pops back, come back up here, and bring the ‘swear jar’ with you.  If it doesn’t pop back, RUN up here with the fire extinguisher.”

WifeGirl ran down to the breaker box as instructed flipped the [correct, amazingly enough] breaker, and raced back up the stairs with the fire extinguisher, just as she was instructed.  Fortunately, there was no fire, smoke, or smoldering wires.  AND, when tested with HomeOwnerMan’s trusty multi-meter from his tool belt, his hypothesis held up – the oldest wires were the power source!

Over the next two months HomeOwnerMan and WifeGirl set about rewiring the attic, making it safe and restoring it to present day technology.  It was a good thing that WifeGirl and HomeOwnerMan found this problem as to avert an inferno but that was not what they had expected to get into at the start of the project.

HomeOwnerMan – making the ordinary extra-ordinary.

 

Tree Limbs and WifeGirl from Heaven

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When we last visited HomeOwnerMan, he was flat on his back repairing a lawn tractor.  Today, as we look into the sky, we find HomeOwnerMan high atop a poplar tree, preparing to carry out some necessary and overdue pruning to the oversize sedentary creature.

As he looks out over the Metropolawn skyline from his perch, his eyes come across Wife Girl tangling adeptly with a pressure washer and a moderately soiled deck railing.  His gaze lingers just a beat too long on Wife Girl however, triggering her arachnid sense as she feels the eyes on her.  She turns nonchalantly and smiles at Homeowner Man, who suddenly feels self-conscious that he is wearing tights and a cape.  He’s always longed to be more than a Superhero associate to Wife Girl, but knows that the life of a Superhero is a solitary one.  Besides, she always seemed more attracted to Brown Lantern, the Delivery Guy.  Still, he wonders for a moment what she looks like under her Spandex Lycra suit, but resists the temptation to invade her privacy by using his X-ray vision to find out.

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Using the chainsaw devise he borrowed from Neighbor Man, HomeOwnerMan makes the necessary cuts to fell the lifeless branch, dropping it two stories onto a picnic table.  Scampering down, HomeOwnerMan saws the branch into 12” pieces only to find that “divide and conquer” are not always the best way to defeat a foe.  For each of the segments fought back by becoming like lead weights which needed to be carted and stacked at the edge of Metropolawn.  In blazing heat, HomeOwnerMan painstakingly carries out the task, until at last there are only brush and twigs remaining.

A new day dawns as HomeOwnerMan gathers the twigs and brush, processing it into small wood chips using the chipping device with which Jeeves had outfitted him.  Jeeves, always the prankster, made the device just a little difficult to start such that HomeOwnerMan is nearly tired out by the time he fires up the device.  Undisturbed by this minor inconvenience, HomeOwnerMan carries out the bone-jarring task of chipping the waste.  Again, the sun did its worst to desiccate HomeOwnerMan, but drawing on sheer determination he gradually amassed a one cubic yard pile of wood chips.  He doesn’t rest, though, until the chips are safely in their mulch pile.

HomeOwnerMan – making the ordinary Extra-ordinary.

[Originally posted on FaceBook 05/30/2011]

Broken Belts and Bamboo

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When we last left Homeowner Man, our hero was dangling precariously from an extension ladder in a rain storm.  This week, Homeowner Man finds himself flat on his back underneath a John Deere LT155 lawn tractor.  Having had an untimely run in with a wayward tree stump, Homeowner Man came up on the short end of the fight, breaking the mower timing belt in the process.

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Upon inspection of the damage, Homeowner Man noticed a fraying drive belt and bravely decided to proactively conquer this problem while addressing the matter at hand.  Undaunted by the closure of the nearest John Deere parts store in the wake of a sagging economy, Homeowner Man plays the waiting game by ordering the parts online, unwilling to pay expedited shipping.

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The grass was unfazed by the inability to be maintained and continued to grow in a manner resembling its larger cousin, bamboo.  Doing a quick calculation in his head, Homeowner Man realized the beauty of the neighborhood lay in the balance between the news brought to him by the UPS tracking site and the unrelenting biomass.  He reached out to his associate, Neighbor Man, to borrow his lawn mowing device.  This kept the grass at bay, and Homeowner Man affected a small repair on Neighbor Man’s machine to alleviate the vapor lock situation.

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The parts finally in hand, Homeowner Man began taking the necessary steps to repair his lawn mowing device.  Piece after piece was removed, some requiring superhuman strength to unbolt and others requiring the agility and contortion skills of Yoga Man (who strangely has never been seen in the same place as Homeowner Man) until hours later all obstructions were removed and the drive belt was accessible.  Requiring his super-human intellect, Homeowner Man managed to re-assemble all of the pieces and not have any left over.  He required the assistance of Wife Girl (who some have suspected is more than just a superhero sidekick for Homeowner Man) to re-attach large springs.

After installing the mower deck timing belt, which was responsible for the whole adventure in the first place, Homeowner man re-attached the deck and turned the key.  With a roar of a Kohler engine and a whirr of blades, Homeowner Man made the yard safe for man and beast alike.

Thank you, Homeowner Man, for restoring truth, Justice, and straight grass lines!

[Originally posted May 3, 2011 on FaceBook.]

HomeOwnerMan: Saving Daylight Time

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HomeOwnerMan is socially conscious.  He’s been known to save a tree, or save the whales, and occasionally, when the fancy-schmancy envelopes come in the mail, he’s been known to save the date.  But recently the talk in the superhero circles had turned to saving daylight.  Mankind had spent all winter winnowing away daylight.  Everyone drove their daylight-guzzling SUVs and forgot to turn off the sun when they came inside.  When they were through charging up their battery-operated daylight they didn’t take the time to reach down and unplug their daylight chargers. This let daylight leak out of the trickle-charger and make a puddle of daylight on the floor.

In short, everyone was talking about saving daylight, but no one was doing anything about it.   And HomeOwnerMan had a hunch why:  no mortal man could save daylight on his own.  It would take a superhero like HomeOwnerMan and an idea that had been around for thousands of years and was first implemented in Germany about 100 years ago.  The original German idea went like this: “What if we deprive everyone of an hour of sleep on the second weekend in March?  That will get them to stop complaining about wasting daylight.”  It was a diabolical plan, but it actually yielded some good things, like plunging early morning commuters back into the pitch darkness from which they were finally beginning to emerge.  And since the rest of the free world, except for a few exceptionally backward counties in Indiana, Michigan, and the Navajo Nation observed it anyway, HomeOwnerMan thought this would be an easy gig.  But he was wrong, and he was about to be enlightened.

For one thing, Daylight Savings Time usually fell around HomeOwnerMan’s birthday, casting a damp, moldy blanket over the birthday festivities.  Honestly, HomeOwnerMan would probably be in bed anyway, but it gave him a good excuse to be there on his birthday weekend.  Secondly, it always fell on Saturday night / Sunday morning.  Why?  Why not Tuesday so you could go to work groggy on Wednesday?  And thirdly, why was it scheduled for the middle of the night?  Why not go from 3:59 PM to 5:00 PM, jumping from late-afternoon snack right to quitting time?  No one would complain about that. But that is not the way it works, is it?

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As luck would have it, HomeOwnerMan and WifeGirl were scheduled to sleep at a friend’s house for daylight savings time this year.  This presented a difficult first challenge-  the dreaded guest room clock from the 70’s.  The 70’s were great for many things such as glitter-wearing horn bands and jarts.  But in the arena of time pieces it was dominated by red LED clocks with  “time”,  “slow” and “fast” buttons.  HomeOwnerMan had long ago mastered the “press and hold the ‘time’ button while simultaneously pressing either the ‘slow’ or ‘fast’ button” routine of this genre.  The clock said 11:17 and since the clock only needed to go an hour ahead, HomeOwnerMan started by using ‘slow’ button.  But it progressed at a snails pace, so HomeOwnerMan foolishly touched the ‘fast’ button.  The clock suddenly rocketed forward stopping at 12:21,  three minutes past the appointed time. That necessitated the maneuver known as “going around the horn.”  This time he stopped at 12:16, but now he had to decide if another minute had lapsed while making the rounds. Should he go to 12:18 or 12:19?  And wait, was the clock 12 hours off?  12:19 was in the AM realm so that would mean that the PM dot, a standard indicator on 70’s clocks, should be off rather than on.  So this guest clock must have been off by 12 hours at least since the previous power failure.  He advanced it to the next 12:19 (with no PM dot), and then debated with himself like Lincoln and Douglas whether it was now 12:20.

The next morning was uneventful at first.  Returning home from their soirée with plenty of time before the 11:30 Mass, a Mass they rarely attend, HomeOwnerMan had time to make the sweep of the house – the microwave, the range, the wall clocks, and the DVD player.  On the way to church he fixed the car clock, complete with uninterpretable German universal symbols on the controls.  In church they saw plenty of sub-humans who were normally from earlier Masses who had forgotten to spring forward.   HomeOwnerMan knew he was better than them, and was over-confident that he had all of his bases covered.  He went to bed Sunday night having all but forgotten about daylight savings time.

The alarm went off Monday morning at 5:00 AM.  HomeOwnerMan woke up feeling that all was right with the world.  It was dark outside, which it should be just after “spring forward.”  He unfurled his yoga mat, and began twisting himself into a pretzel.  But he suddenly realized that his “pigeon prep” felt more like “frozen pigeon.”  The bedroom was colder than a brass casket.  HomeOwnerMan was once again foiled by the “spring-forward-fall-backward-set-back-thermostat.”  It was the thing he forgot every daylight Sunday and was always rudely and briskly reminded on daylight Monday.

Making his way in the dark to the thermostat wearing an undershirt and yoga pants, he looked through blurry eyes at the array of buttons labeled “mode”, “fan”. “prog”, “^”, “v” and “hold”, and a clock that said “Mon 4:05 AM”.  There was also a set of instructions that were printed in 0.2 point minimicromidget font.  He punched a few buttons and the display lit up.  The word “Hold” illuminated; he looked at the temperature which read “62°”.  “Hold” would be bad at this temperature,  so he forged on like a S.W.A.T. member diffusing a bomb.  Finally “Mon” started to flash, which meant he had stumbled into “time set mode.”  A few button-clicks later, the heat whirred into action and the time was finally set correctly.  There would be no frozen pigeon today.

HomeOwnerMan: making the ordinary extra ordinary.

HomeOwnerMan: The Making of a Superhero

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A few years ago HomeOwnerMan and Wifegirl were entertaining SisterChick in the new kitchen that they had just remodeled.  SisterChick looked around in amazement at the new tile floor, the new cabinets and countertops, the lighting, the extra sink, the exhaust hood and island, and asked, “How did you ever learn to do all of this?  And how did you get the nerve to take on a project of this size?”  HomeOwnerMan could see a sudden look of regret in her eyes the moment the words left her mouth. It was the look of regret Kenny Rogers must see when one of his friends says, “Do you want to play poker tonight?”  There is no taking the question back when it leaves the lips, but the regret is hard to hide.

SisterChick had the regret in her eyes because she knew she was going to get an answer.  A long answer.  A three ridiculously-large-red-wine-glasses-full answer.  You see, she knew her little brother HomeOwnerMan better than anyone besides WifeGirl.  And she knew there would be no escaping the answer.  So she settled in with her first globe of red wine and listened.

“You don’t start with a kitchen,” HomeOwnerMan began, [Even with the narrator’s choice of the word “began” she could tell she was in for it], “you start with a flapper valve in a toilet that just doesn’t seal properly.  You go to the hardware store and ask for ‘one of those black things inside the toilet’.  You notice the snicker of the grizzled old hardware man as he begins to guess what you mean, asking questions like ‘Was the black thing in the toilet before you sat down’, and later zeroing in on ‘is the black thing in the tank…er…you know…the back part of the toilet?’  You nod your head in a less-than-confident way until he walks you over to the plumbing aisle and points to a red flapper valve.  You say, ‘but mine is black,’ and he replies, ‘yeah, they change the color every so often, but it will work for you.’

Florence re-framed the “Henri Laithier”, and we got a matching trash can.

“So you buy the flapper valve [see how quick a study you are] and rush home to install it,“ HomeOwnerMan continued.  “It takes you all evening, because you have several choices to make about how it is installed, but in the end you have a sense of satisfaction as your toilet now starts and stops when you tell it to.

“You move on to patching the drywall where the drunken friend threw a fried ravioli through it.  This, you find, takes a bit more skill, but in the end you have the same sense of satisfaction.  Soon you’ve put in a backsplash and a paver walk.  But still, you don’t feel like you have any super powers, just like a guy with a box of tools and a fixed toilet.

“Then one day, you notice water on your kitchen ceiling below the shower upstairs.  ‘This requires the big guns,’ you reason.  And while you are at it, you decide it might be time to remodel the bathroom because the tile is an unpleasant pattern and you’ve always wanted a light in the shower.  ‘It’s too big a job for me,’ you whimper.  So you decide to call a contractor.  You grab the yellow pages [this story happened when HomeOwnerMan was still quite young and people used yellow pages] and look for contractors.  There are several listed who are local and have half-page advertisements.  So you decide to call a few to get estimates.  This is where the trouble begins.  Of the first nine appointments you’ve scheduled, only two of them actually show up, and one of them is fall-down drunk.  The other one spends two minutes looking at your bathroom, measuring it to be 8’ x 8’.  He does some fancy mathematics [8 x 8 is 64, times $100 per square foot is, er, $6400 but that sounds like a messy number and they have a nice car so…] he tells you it will be $7000.  You avoid dropping over from apoplexy, shake his hand, and tell him you will call him when you’ve made a decision.  You want at least three estimates, so you repeat this process twice more and get estimates of $10,000 and $14,000. The guy who gives you the $14,000 estimate even has the nerve to say, ‘You know, it sounds high but it’s not like I’ll be going to Tahiti on your job.’ He then hands you his card, and without even cracking an ironic smile, says ‘Don’t call me next week.  I’ll be golfing in Florida.’ [I have not exaggerated this part of the story at all.]

“Distraught, you sit down to re-evaluate.  The leak in the kitchen isn’t all that bad yet.  But a nagging voice in the back of your head says, ‘You can do it.’  And you think ‘Why not me?  I can do this.’  You have a loving wife who believes in you.  So you take a trip to the library the following Saturday [this was back when people went to the library to look stuff up] and take out all of their books on bathroom remodeling.  You study up on how to tile, how to plumb, and how to drywall.  You learn about new materials like cement board with special screws called “rock on”.  You pick out tile.  You pick out fixtures.  You put a light in the shower and tile the entire thing.  You tile the floor.  You paint with River Rock, a textured paint.  And you and WifeGirl transform the room for under $1000.  That little feeling of satisfaction has now ballooned into euphoria, because you now have a brand new bathroom and $6000 – $13000 that you would have paid to the fall-down drunk or the golfing guy.

“Now you tackle the deck.  You get fancy with the design and materials, using Trex and composite railings.  You are complimented by the township inspector on your very detailed drawings.  You are a little concerned, though, because the fancy design requires sixteen concrete pilings for support and three concrete pads as stair landings and for the hot tub you are installing, and you have never done any concrete work.  So you decide to call a concrete contractor for this.  Pulling out the trusty yellow pages, you find six concrete contractors listed.  The first one doesn’t ‘do concrete anymore.’  You call the second hear a sweet voice that says ‘Daddy doesn’t live here anymore.’  You press on to contractor number 3, but he ‘won’t be out of prison until next September at the earliest.’  Number 4 is your favorite.  He says, ‘yeah, I’ll pour your concrete, but you’ve got to dig all of the holes and frame out the pads.’  You say, ‘but I would be paying you to do that’, to which he replies, ‘that’s back-breaking work, I tell ya.’  Numbers five and six basically have no shot, because you have already succumbed to the realization that you will be learning to pour concrete this weekend.  So back to the library you go, this time for books on concrete and masonry.

“As blockhead number four said, it is back-breaking work.  You rent an auger, and with the um, er, help, of HomeOwnerSenior, dig sixteen holes for pilings and three pads.  You fill the bottom of each with rock, and begin mixing concrete bag-by bag.  You’ve got 104 of those suckers at 80 lb. each, so you see the need to outsmart gravity.  You fabricate a see-saw on which you sit an 80 lb. bag of concrete, have WifeGirl press down on the other side of the see-saw, raising the bag to the mixer where you tear it open and dump it in, no lifting.  And as if by magic, you and WifeGirl are now concrete experts.  You complete the deck together, now adding heavy construction to your list of abilities.

HomeOwnerSenior

“You tackle another bathroom and a laundry room.  Then one day, the majors call.  You are asked to join the big leagues after kitchen contractors throw numbers at you like $40,000 for their fee only, with materials and subcontractors extra.  You go through your period of depression once again, until you come to the realization that you have done all of this before, just not all at one time.  So the challenge is no longer the skills, it is the logistics.  You learn how to create a Gantt diagram, and orchestrate the ballet that will become your new kitchen.  You have it timed out so exactly that the electrical sub-contractor is planning vacations between his pieces of it, and your plumber knows he won’t be in the way of the granite guy.  Now the labor is just second nature.  You can size up a job, estimate your materials and time, and have time to post about your progress along the way.

“Now you can step back knowing that you earned that cape and mask.  You deserve to be called HomeOwnerMan.”

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SisterChick takes that last swallow of the third glass of red wine.  And she has a new found respect for you.  And she’s glad she asked you rather than playing cards with Kenny Rogers.  You used to just be her sniveling little brother who tagged along with her and her friends.  Now you are that cape wearing sniveling little brother who offers her wine.

HomeOwnerMan: Making the ordinary extra ordinary.

Acceleration Due to Gravity-1, HomeOwnerMan-0

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It was a quite Saturday around Gothhome City, the kind where there was no need for millionaire Steve Dzwonczyk to go into his closet full of lycra spandex suits emblazoned with the giant “H” above the crossed hammer and screwdriver crest. He was doing what other millionaires do on a Saturday, trying to stick it to the man. You see, Florence, who some have alleged is the mortal alter-ego of Wife Girl, was remarking that she wished she had better reception on their 27” cathode-ray-tube-style TV, which was the “big TV” in the house incidentally. They had said goodbye a year earlier to the 400 channels of infomercials offered by DirecTV; they had long ago said goodbye to the 300 channels of poor reception and commercials provided by RCN. They were antenna people now, and were $69 dollars a month richer and had access to some of the finest non-English and faith-based programming offered digitally over the airwaves. And while they were ideally located halfway between the Philadelphia and New York TV broadcast markets, their reception wasn’t as good as they had hoped. But this was all about to change.

Having recently conversed with Neighbor Guy, Steve was convinced that the problem with the reception was due to a wiring problem. While the signal coming into the house was very good, it dropped precipitously by the time it reached the TVs. After extensive testing, it became apparent that the many splices in the coaxial cable were reducing the signal. It seemed such a trivial thing to replace that Steve didn’t even call in the services of HomeOwnerMan, but instead decided to tackle the project himself.

Armed with 100 feet of fresh coax and a brand new crimping tool, Steve made his way up the treacherous ladder to the attic. It had snowed in the attic two summers earlier, leaving 18 inches of fresh white fluffy insulation, which made negotiating the attic, which had no floor, a bit tricky to negotiate. But Steve had beaten a path through the fluff to the far end of the attic where the antenna is located. But like a bolt of lightning, gravity decided to apply its grip to Steve. If he had donned his HomeOwnerMan uniform, it would have been trivial and have gone unnoticed. But Steve lost his balance and began falling at 32 feet per-second-per-second, breaking through the ceiling of Son Boy’s room. Fortunately, Steve was stopped by a heroic ceiling joist which he straddled at high speed. The blunt force of the fall was enough to cause the middle region of him to turn entirely black and blue, rendering him incapable of sitting or wearing normal-sized pants for some time. A third keester, whose presence was here-to-fore unknown, appeared making it impossible to sit down. Private parts turned colors they ought not turn. Ice packs became a close friend for several days, followed by hot compresses and soaks in the hot tub. Tying shoes became a new dimension in fun.

In pain and unable to sit, Steve flashed the hammer-shaped beacon skyward, summoning HomeOwnerMan. Like a flash HomeOwnerMan swooped in and assessed the situation. Seeing the gaping hole in Son Boy’s room, HomeOwnerMan went into the materials cave to look for a sufficient piece of drywall. But the available pieces were too small. So HomeOwnerMan and Wife Girl hopped into the HomeOwner Mobile and sped off to Lowes to buy drywall, schmutz (that’s what super-heros call spackle), and drywall screws. But the weather gods were frowning on HomeOwnerMan and Wife Girl, and the heavens began to rain and winds began to blow as they placed the, notice the word “dry”, drywall into the bed of the Homeowner mobile. The angry-faced woman at Lowes supplied HomeOwnerMan and Wife Girl with plastic and nylon twine, but nothing else. Together they feebly attempted to fashion weather-proofing for the drywall, and Wife Girl went back in to buy a roll of masking tape. The masking tape, however, came off in small masking shreds which were unsuitable for anything but rolling into pea-sized spitballs. Frustrated, they made their way back to Gothhome with the drywa…sheetrock.

There, they cut a 32” x 62” rectangle of board, which nearly matched the size to the hole in the ceiling once it had been enlarged to a more regular polyhedron. Enlarging the hole made for great fun as the white insulation, as well as pink fiberglass insulation from an earlier era, came raining down on them into Son Boy’s room.

HomeOwnerMan Drywall

The super-family teamed up to fit the board in place in the ceiling. Using “the gizmo” (an 8 foot 2 x 4 with a small flat piece of plywood at the top) to hold the sheetrock in place, HomeOwnerMan screwed it in place. Using perforated tape and schmutz, HomeOwnerMan painstakingly matched the surfaces until the ceiling and the patch became one. Primer and paint are next.

HomeOwnerMan – making the ordinary extra ordinary.

Washing Machine Repair

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Looking for some fun and excitement this weekend?  Look no further than your own laundry room.  Most Americans are unaware of the untapped entertainment value of their own washing machine.  You see, washing machines combine the four elements of home-owner fun: electricity, water, grease, and  sharp edges to accommodate all of your hand-shredding needs.

My introduction into this world of joy began about two months ago, when my wife noticed a strange whine coming from behind our 1979 Whirlpool 4 cycle, 3 temperature, LHA 7680 washing machine.  I spent two weeks assuring her that there was no problem with the appliance, and so long as we could verify the whereabouts of the two cats, no one was being hurt by the whine.

Unfortunately, these types of problems rarely fix themselves, and soon the washer began refusing to empty until someone came along and manually twisted the agitator (quite adequately named, I might add) a couple of times.  This progressed into the machine’s outright refusal to start the spin cycle unless someone (me) reached around the back and advanced the ever-fraying belt a couple of turns.  Clearly, something needed to be done.

“Florence, take these clothes down to the river and clean them on some rocks.”

“Yes, Dear.”

After a week or so of watching (from the Lazi-Boy with a beer in my hand) my wife lug baskets of clothing down to the estuary of the mighty Delaware river, I was moved with pity, and decided it was time to repair the washing machine once and for all.

My first course of action was to diagnose the problem; that was a pretty easy task.  The drive belt coordinates everything that goes on in a washing machine, and the belt on ours was clearly worn.  Therefore, it had to be the belt.

I called the “Sears Parts By Phone” hotline, who operate under the motto, “We’re not just parts, we’re part of the problem.”  I was greeted by the familiar, “We’re sorry.  Both of our customer service representatives are currently busy.  Please wait on the line, and you will be disconnected in the order that your call was taken.”  They were as good as their word.  I was disconnected twice before finally speaking to Melinda.  She asked, “May I have the model number of your appliance?”

Having proudly anticipated this question, I read the number “LHA 7680” right off the front cover of my owners manual.  Melinda then asked, “What are the last two letters?”

“Huh?  What flagging last two letters?” I thought to myself.  “That’s all, just LHA 7680,” I replied.

“Well, I’m sorry, but without the last two letters, we cannot place your order.  You can find the full model number on a plate on the back of your washer.  Click.  Bzzzzz.”

It took me roughly 24 hours to cool down and move the washer away from the wall so I could read the numbers on the plate.  And sure as manure stinks, the model number was listed as “LHA 7680 WO” on the plate.  I was finally able to place my order. I subsequently waited eagerly by the mailbox every day for 2 weeks.  Still, no belt.  I phoned Sears again, and asked them the status of my order.  Mike, the customer service representative, said, “Well, since you didn’t specify method of delivery, we sent it by the least expensive means.”

“Which is?” I inquired.

“Cattle boat from China,” Mike was more than happy to inform me.

At last the day arrived!  A large padded envelope arrived from Sears in Spokane, WA which enclosed both the belt and instructions for replacing it.  Instructions indeed!  As a seasoned home owner and backyard auto mechanic, I scoffed at the notion that anyone would need directions to replace a belt.  Fortunately, my wife wrestled the directions out of my hands before I could cast them into the fiery furnace.  She insisted that she could read the directions to me while I installed the belt.

For 3 grueling hours, she read things like “remove mounting bolts (A), (B), (D), and (J) from stabilizing brackets (C), (E), (F), and (K), being careful not to lose spacer (G).”  The old spacer (G) went falling into the clutch mechanism (H), causing husband (M) to begin swearing.  Along the way, I discovered what my father must have felt like when I was a kid of 6 or 7 years old, and wanted to “help” my father fix something.  He’d ask me for a socket wrench, and I’d hand him a pair of pliers;  he’d ask me to shine the flash light on a particular part, but my mind would wander, and soon he’d say to me, “shine it on the washer, not on me.”  Wives, I discovered, are much like 6 or 7 year old boys in this respect.

We finally pieced the washer back together, and were ready to try it out.  We reconnected the hoses and power supply, and selected “normal cycle.”  To our amazement, the washer began to fill, and even stopped filling at the appointed time.  But then without warning, in what should have been the agitation cycle, the agitator (had I mentioned how apropos this name is?) refused to agitate, and instead, the tank spun.  “No problem,” I said. “The controller must simply be in the wrong position.  We just need to fix that.”  So we again disassembled the washing machine, put the control rod in the “correct” position, and reassembled everything.  This time, the agitator (this ~really~ has been aptly named) worked correctly, but the tank wouldn’t spin during the spin cycle.  Again we disassembled and reassembled it, and this time, both the agitator (well-named) and the tank spun ALL of the time.  The appliance had become, for all practical purposes, an amusement park ride for clothing.

I have no idea why the Maytag Repairman is so lonely.  He’ll soon be making a service call to our house.

HomeOwnerMan and the Wrath of Sandy

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HomeOwnerMan and the Wrath of Sandy Video Here ***

When we last left HomeOwnerMan and Wife Girl, they were transforming this ‘80s style kitchen, and don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the ‘80s, most of HomeOwnerMan’s clothing and eyewear are from the ‘80s, anyway, they were transforming this ‘80s style kitchen into this modern-looking, functional-yet-elegant, money-sucking, kitchen including all the amenities.

Wife Girl and HomeOwnerMan scarcely had a chance to sit down and enjoy the new room when, as if from nowhere, came Hurricane Sandy.When the red phone, er Silver and black phone rang, they sprang into action.  With the help of Fuerte Dog, they set about getting things ready for the incoming storm.  Things like water, a generator, gasoline, extension cords, and the most important disaster supply, beer, which can be used not only for nourishment, but as currency if one needs to bribe the neighbors.
Finally, Hurricane Sandy made landfall.  And in Hometropolis, the winds and driving rain pounded hard. HomeOwnerMan had recently fortified the Home Cave with Dry-Lok, to keep the water outside Home Cave, or at least not too much higher that the super-sump. This seemed effective during Hurricane Irene and The October Storm of 2011, but Sandy was no ordinary natural disaster.  Would the dry-lok hold?

Eventually, the storm proved too much for Jersey Central Power and Light, and the power came to an abrupt halt.

To keep themselves busy, HomeOwnerMan and The Boy Runder, set about filling Halloween bags for the throngs of local youths who would undoubtedly find their way to the Home Cave to Trick-or-treat in two days.  Using their night vision, they skillfully filled the bags with three pieces each, except for the last stragglers who would only get two.

The winds began to gust to 90 mph.  Looking out the window, the Homeowner Gang were practically soiling their super-suits. Fuerte Dog was panting hard, and though he tried to cross his legs, eventually nature got the better of him and he had to go out.  Amid the wind and the rain, HomeOwnerMan and Fuerte Dog dodged flying sticks, stinging rain, and falling trees.  Under the cover of night, they could make out a strange shape looming high across the lawn.  But it was too dark to identify it.

It wasn’t until the long sleepless night, which was punctuated by important Nixle messages every 10 minutes, was over that it was finally bright enough outside to identify the strange shape on the lawn. It was not just one but two toppled trees, their roots torn from the ground like those of a turnip.

If this were HomeOwnerMan’s only concern, he could have cleaned up the mess lickity split.  But he had to deal with no power, no water, no coffee, and no internet. As these hurdles cleared themselves one by one, it was time for HomeOwnerMan to have at the trees.  Pulling a chainsaw from his utility belt, He slowly diced the trees into manageable logs.

HomeOwnerMan: Making the ordinary extra ordinary.

 

HomeOwnerMan Reclaims Deck from Mother Nature

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Flash back to last October.  HomeOwnerMan and Wife Girl were minding their own business in stately HomeOwnerMan Manor when Mother Nature brought her wrath upon the northeast in the shape of an unseasonable snow storm.  The wet snow clung to the heretofore unfallen leaves, bringing branches and trees down everywhere.  Even the force field that HomeOwnerMan furnished with his highly developed brain was insufficient to keep the arboreal damage at bay, and eventually a large branch fell across the deck of HomeOwnerMan, breaking three sections of railing.

 

The composite railing had been furnished Bate-n-Switch Industries, who just a few years ago promised a “lifetime warranty.”  HomeOwnerMan was not astute enough to realize the “lifetime” was measured on the order of that of a Drosophila (about two weeks) , and so when he went to buy replacement parts was surprised to find the manufacturer was out of business.  However, the Mom-n-Pop Home Center Store was able to locate some and graciously ordered it in.  It arrived in time for the holidays, and HomeOwnerMan was too busy in his white, spandex “Pizzelle Prince” outfit to install the new parts.

Flash ahead, now, to the current time when the weather had become pleasant and HomeOwnerMan again turned his attention to the broken railings and post.  The post was affixed to the deck in 2004 by HomeOwnerMan with the intention of permanence.  He had not considered that the post would ever need to be removed.  Unfortunately now was the time to remove it.  After disassembling the deck around it and filling three extra-large swear jars with quarters, the broken post was removed and its replacement installed.  This required the strength, intuition, and an anti-swearing potion that only Wife Girl could provide.

Installation of the railings then commenced.  The sun was still high in the sky while the first two railings were cut to length, installed and fastened down, so it was time to tackle the stair railing.

Comparing the damaged stair railing with the replacement material, HomeOwnerMan was quick to realize the humor that Bate-n-Switch Industries provided for free, because while the old material accommodated six balusters per 28 inch run, the new material only accommodated five.  So the existing bottom rail would have to be replaced as well.

HomeOwnerMan recognized the classic “rise over run” type problem with cutting the stair rail to length, and instantly pressed the beacon on his utility belt to summon Son Boy.  This was a classic teaching opportunity, and HomeOwnerMan was not going to let it pass without sharing his knowledge that really the only thing he ever learned in school of any use was trigonometry, oh, and the fact that the teen super-hero girls wearing the red “COH” badges were upperclassman and would humiliate a fledgling male, underclass super-hero just for sport.  HomeOwnerMan set up the problem for Son Boy thusly, “The stairs have a run of 25 1/8” and a rise of 10 ¾”.  How long should I cut the piece of stair railing and at what angle should I set the miter saw?”  Son Boy made HomeOwnerMan so proud when he came up with the proper length (27.32816”, we’ll get to the significant figures lesson later), but said they had not yet gotten to arc-tangents in super-hero middle school.  HomeOwnerMan gave him a pass on this (for now).

Would that construction was as easy as trigonometry, however, and HomeOwnerMan knows this fact well.  He therefore cut the pieces a bit long and began the process of running downstairs, trimming the pieces a little, running back upstairs to fit the piece, and repeating the process over and over again, also adjusting each baluster in a similar manner.  He thumbed his nose at the need for a device called a “Stair Master.”  The sun was now low on the horizon.  As he went to install the new section of stair rail, he realized that the new material was also slightly taller and would not clear the top step in its current configuration.  This dilemma vexed HomeOwnerMan, who eventually made the daring decision to rout out a part of the offending stair so the rail could have clear passage.  Assembling a custom routing jig for the occasion, HomeOwnerMan worked into the dark hours removing the material neatly and with precision.  In the dark, he reassembled the stairs with the aid of his infrared vision and LED flashlights.

HomeOwnerMan – making the ordinary extra ordinary.

 

HomeOwnerMan: The Recoil Spring, the Starter Clutch, and the Recoiling and Clutching of His Heart

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It was a quiet evening in Hometropolis, indeed a little too quiet.  Incredidog was dozing on the couch, having barked a record ten minutes straight at the UPS guy, who delivered a small, unassuming package from Amazon Prime, containing a recoil spring for a Briggs and Stratton 130212/3247-01 engine.  This engine powered a 25 year old air sweeper/leaf blower which HomeOwnerMan had acquired from Weaselpuss, an unscrupulous Craigslist huckster who thought he had gotten the better of a mere mortal by selling what he believed was a non-functional pile of scrap.  Weaselpuss gladly accepted $125 for the lot, and smirked as HomeOwnerMan loaded it into the Homeowner mobile and drove off slowly so as to not damage his new purchase. Weaselpuss was sure that the machine would never start, but HomeOwnerMan spent 5 minutes with some Gum-Out and a screw driver, and before you could say “Homeowner Beacon” (if you spoke really slowly) the air sweeper started up on the first pull, and continued to do so for the next five years.

It was a good thing that it started on the first pull, actually, because after a few years, if it didn’t start up on the first pull the starter rope would not re-wind into the machine, and HomeOwnerMan would then spend 5 minutes manually rewinding the rope before a second pull could be attempted.  Finally, this procedure became too much for HomeOwnerMan, and he scoured the internet for the cheapest place to buy a recoil spring.   He found it at Repairclinic.com for $6.95, but they also wanted $6.95 for shipping.  HomeOwnerMan was too seasoned to fall for the old “Shipping and Handling” trick, and he remembered that Wife Girl had recently enrolled in Amazon Prime which,  in addition to offering free second-day shipping, also had a large variety of TV shows and movies.  It further occurred to HomeOwnerMan that he had not actually seen Wife Girl since she enrolled in Amazon Prime; someone had cast a spell on her and all she could do was watch old movies and foreign films on her iPad. HomeOwnerMan, for his part, stuck to watching Looney Toons re-runs like Elmer Fudd being “vewwy, vewwy, quiet” as he stalked Bugs Bunny, or Foghorn Leghorn speaking in his southern drawl phrases like “Hey, I say, Hey there boy…”, or Pepe Le Pew as he wooed unsuspecting female cats.  HomeOwnerMan thought of this as educational television.)  So for $10.12 and free shipping from Amazon Prime, HomeOwnerMan got the recoil spring and was ready to install it.

Although HomeOwnerMan lists “Superior Intellect” among his many super powers, he is not above watching a You-tube video or two before attempting a repair job, especially those that involve springs under a great deal of tension.  Choosing the video of a man replacing a recoil spring that had the most hits (41,763), he watched and learned.  The man in the video had a difficult-to-understand southern drawl, so the educational television that HomeOwnerMan watched was already paying off.  The man adeptly installed the spring right before HomeOwnerMan’s superhuman eyes, and now it was HomeOwnerMan’s turn.

It was a warm evening, so HomeOwnerMan set himself up near the top of the driveway. Knowing that night came quickly in these parts, he wanted to be near the spotlights.  Unbolting the cover plate, he exposed the flywheel, the recoil spool and the recoil spring.  The spring was a long, thin ribbon of memory steel so named because if it hit you in the head, you might well lose your memory.  It was in bad shape, so at first inspection HomeOwnerMan was sure he had made the correct diagnosis.  He then began re-installing the new spring just as Foghorn Leghorn had done in the video, only with not as much ease.  The first time he got it all wound up, but as he went to re-insert the pull cord the spring came flying out, momentarily erasing the memory from HomeOwnerMan as it whacked him in the forehead.  The second time he did a better job of winding the spring, and this time invoked the help of WifeGirl who, among other superpowers, boasted tiny, little fingers unrivalled by anyone but Oskar Schindler’s little children who polished the insides of shell casings.  WifeGirl threaded the pull string through, knotted the end, and they tested the rope.  It recoiled just as it would have done if new, and HomeOwnerMan was so pleased with WifeGirl that he gave her a greasy-handed embrace.

He re-installed the assembly on the air sweeper and gave it a pull.  The motor rotated but did not start and much to HomeOwnerMan’s chagrin, the rope again did not recoil.  Undeterred, HomeOwnerMan again uninstalled the cover plate and this time tested the starter clutch.  It was frozen like a chocolate covered banana at a state fair.  So HomeOwnerMan watched another video, this time by a man who sounded more like Charles Emerson Winchester from “M*A*S*H” showing how to remove the clutch and lubricate its parts.  It was now dark, but HomeOwnerMan just had to finish the job.  So, following the advice of Major Winchester, HomeOwnerMan unscrewed the clutch, being careful not to lose the ball bearings, lubed up the shaft, and was ready to re-assemble.

It was then that he saw it.  Were his eyes playing tricks on him?  Had a black cat accidently rubbed her back on a paint brush loaded with white paint?  No, it was him.   Not fifty feet away it was Pepe Le Pew!  HomeOwnerMan’s instinct was to recoil like the $10.12 spring, and to clutch his heart in fear, but the educational television had paid off again.  Summoning the images of Elmer Fudd, HomeOwnerMan stayed “vewwy, vewwy quiet”, and the skunk eventually turned tail, but did not lift tail, and scurried off.

Reinvigorated with his new-found zest for life that did not include bathing in tomato juice, HomeOwnerMan re-assembled the air sweeper, and throwing caution to the wind that would soon come out of the machine, he started it up despite being well past the “noisy equipment curfew”.  It ran like a charm, and when shut off, it was able to be restarted again with one pull.  All was right again in Hometropolis.

HomeOwnerMan – making the ordinary extra-ordinary.