Around the house


Our house is heated and cooled through air vents. You know what I meanÖ head to the basement, look up, and check out those rectangular-squared-boxy-silver tubes.

Last week, I walked into the bathroom looking for a tissue. Couldnít find any, wanted to blow my nose, so I went to grab a bit of toilet paper. And between the way I pulled on the roll, and the angle of my arm movement, and the heat coming out of the ventÖ wellÖ I ended up with a few extra feet of toilet paper unspooling across the room.

There are times when my house amazes me.

OkÖ sureÖ toilet paper cascading through the air across the bathroom is hardly amazing. That image doesnít assist in where Iím hoping to bring us. Instead, consider why it was cascading.

Too hard a pull was a start.

An arm angle that likely assisted in somehow lifting it higher while also coupling with the pull to get the roll spinning.

A quick second pull intended to tear off just a bit of the roll, which instead only increased the roll spin.

The central air system has a floor-based vents, the heat just so happened to have kicked on at that time, and the flow of air came up under the moving paper and gave it an additional kick.

A bit of thisÖ a bit of thatÖ and Iím rerolling.

We have one of those mounted above the stove microwave units, with a venting fan and light built right in. It has a weird display and control design that can overwhelm and frustrate, along with no visible dedicated popcorn button, but once we got used to it the thing has been pretty nice.

About a year ago, it began acting up.

Iíd like to tell you exactly what was happening, but I canít. Words actually fail it. The display would start showing crazy symbols and freeze up.

Most of the time you could unplug it, count to ten, and it would reset and work when plugged back in. Sometimes it wouldnít. And yet, leave it unplugged overnight and the next day it fell right back into service.

I tried to look it up on the internet, and wasnít finding anything reassuring. The manufacturer had a long history of units with displays that, and this is apparently the best technical description for it, fried. And when I say long history, I mean a beyond belief run of comments and reviews that firmly established the most reliably consistent feature of their microwaves was the frying of the display. The second most consistent feature was the inability to repair it at a reasonable cost. The very model we had earned horrible reviews and was pulled from production after about a year.

A few resets in, we decided to err on the side of caution. It looked like we not only needed to replace the microwave, but with no way (or desire) to install the same model we quite possibly were going to end up with something that might need some fancy work done to install it. So I brought out an older microwave we still had, and we began using that until I could get an additional set of hands to assist with the replacement effort.

Funny thing time. Given a moment to catch your breath, to think, to consider, time will allow you to run through ideas you might never have acted upon with more quickly enacted solutions.

One day I was standing in the kitchen, working on the stove, and I happened to glance at and ponder the outlet being used for the microwave. It was an older receptacle. Located on a wall far enough from the sink that it wasnít a GFCI outlet.

Hmm. Weíve had some dilemmas with other outlets in this house. Could this one be faulty? Could that be the problem with the microwave?


The display was showing all the signs people described and complained about online. It was a model famous for breaking down. It was from a manufacturer famous for producing microwaves that broke down.

StillÖ couldnít hurt to replace the outlet. Itís a kitchen outlet, so upgrading to a GFCI piece would be a good idea.

And because of course, the microwave has worked perfectly ever since I installed the brand new GFCI outlet and plugged it back in.

Air ducts and electrical outlets. Just small pieces in the overall puzzle that is a house.

Someone once described what itís like to own a boat by saying itís more like owning a hole in the water that you throw money in. From people I have known with boats, that is frighteningly accurate. And a house is vaguely similar. The main way I would differentiate the concept is that with a house you tend to tinker with things a bit more, stretching out the timing of some repairs as you learn to live with inconveniences, since in most cases the house isnít going to sink as a result. (In most cases.)

Once you drill a hole into a tiled wall, youíve basically committed. It wouldnít be easy for me to move the toilet paper holder since someone else made that decision to drill a hole long before I moved in. Not as easy as changing an electrical outlet. And I donít know that I would move it even if it were easy. That doesnít stop me from tinkering in other places.

This spring I need to swap out two exterior floodlights. The ones in place now were there when we bought the house. They have timers and motion sensors.

They also suck. They turn on with the flick of a switch, and then turn off just as soon as you begin to do anything that involves needing to see.

Iíve tried resetting the timers.

Iíve tried adjusting the positioning of the motion sensors.

Iíve looked up details on the internet. Iíve searched home improvement stores. Iíve tried to gather any information available on the same model, similar models, different models, and anything that might give me a clue about what I need to do to change the settings to anything even remotely close to functional.

In the end, Iím nearing the day when a pair that simply go on and stay on will be installed.

(The side note to this tale is my needs while using the grill during winter months. That was the over-the-edge provider. Gets dark early around here in January. Iím very tired of turning on the light, walking to the grill to lift the lid, stepping toward the house to trigger the light back on, going back to the grill to flip one burger, stepping back toward the house to trigger the light, then back to flip another burger, thenÖ yes, itís exhausting and frustrating. I just need a light that stays on. I donít think thatís asking too much.)

That isnít the only item on my list. Iíve got a few things to do. Some of them Iíll attack this week. A few will wait for warmer weather. Some are just there in case I get around to them. Others will never be done.

And then there are those things that remain hiddenÖ unknown for nowÖ waiting to be discovered, assigned a priority, and added to the list. I can hardly wait.


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