an opening, NOT

We’ve got a electric garage door opener. Always have had one. So, I would never know how much grunting I would have to do to open the garage door until the goddamn thing broke.

Well, the goddamn thing broke.

The first time it broke, it looked pretty simple to fix. The kind of garage door opener that we have uses a bicycle chain to pull the door up. A cog wheel just a little smaller than the one on the hub of the back wheel of your bike sticks out the top of the motor. The chain jumped off the cog, for no reason that I could see, but fixing it should’ve been just a matter of wrapping the chain around the cog.

Easier said than done, it turned out. First, because it’s been cold as Hell Frozen Over, in case you haven’t heard. Second, because the chain had to be wrapped tightly around the cog in order for the whole kit and caboodle to work. It was wrapped so tight that fixing it was not a matter of simply reaching up and hooking the chain around the cog. There wasn’t enough slack in the chain for that, and my fingers went numb before I could figure out how to loosen it.

Today was a little warmer than usual, so I bundled up and went out to the garage again to see if I could work it out. There’s a ten-foot-long piece of angle iron that runs from the motor to a bracket on the wall above the door; it’s a track for a metal shuttle about the size of a pack of cigarettes. The shuttle pulls on a steel arm that’s attached to the door. The track was high above my head, even when I was standing on a ladder, and too close to the ceiling for me to see anything going on above it, but I found a little pin that released it from the bracket above the door, and it swung down far enough for me to see what was going on.

The chain was bolted solidly to one end of the shuttle, but attached to the other end with a long screw. If I unscrewed it, the chain went slack enough for me to wrap it around the cog. Then, all I had to do was tighten up the screw again, lift the track back up to the bracket and put the pin back in. Voila! Fixed! Problem solved! I am a goddamn genius!

When I hit the button to pull the garage door up, though, there was a loud *SNAP!*, the chain went slack, and something went jingle-jingle-jingle across the cement floor of the garage. Well, of course it did. That fix was way too easy.

I didn’t have to pull the pin on the track this time to see what had gone wrong: I got a quick look at the top of the motor and saw that the chain had gone slack because the cog was gone. The goddamn cog was gone! It had snapped right off the end of the drive shaft! I didn’t even have to look far to find it on the floor of the garage. That’s what had gone jingle-jingle right after the chain went slack for the second time.

So I unbolted the whole mess from the ceiling, carried the motor to the basement work shop, and unscrewed the cover. The drive mechanism looked very simple, so simple that it appeared to be utterly disposable. I couldn’t imagine that anybody anywhere bothered with the expense of offering replacements parts for it. Imagine my surprise when a quick Google search came up with an on-line supplier for exactly the part I was looking for. What happened to me is either a common breakdown for a large enough number of people who own this particular make of garage door opener, or somebody out there likes me. I hope it’s Option B.

I ordered a new drive shaft and cog. It was only forty bucks, a whole lot less than buying a new opener. If it gets here this week, and the weather warms up by next weekend, then very soon I might be able to open the door without grunting.

free chair

image of a chair by the curbThe neighbor put this chair out by the side of the road, and it’s been there ever since.

Go anywhere in this town and there’s usually furniture by the side of the road, but it usually doesn’t last as long as this chair has. Someone comes along and decides it would look great in their basement or on their porch, loads it onto the back of his truck and drives off with it, typically within a week, very often in only a few days.

The neighbor’s chair, however, has been out there for more than a week, even after its value went way up from having been rained on. For some reason, a lot of furniture doesn’t get hauled away until after it gets rained on at least once. Maybe some people think that kills the bed bugs.

So anyway, if you’re looking for a nice wing chair that’s been rained on twice already, I can point you in the right direction.


Our water heater started leaking last Friday and has been leaking steadily all weekend, but because it wasn’t spraying water all over the basement and we still had hot water, and because I’m CHEAP, I didn’t call a plumber until this morning. It was the same plumber that installed the water heater about four years ago. I figured I’d give them a chance to make me a happy customer again, and was very pleasantly surprised when they said they’d send somebody around today between one and two. I had a few things I wanted to do outside the house, but took care of them this morning and was back in time to eat lunch, then passed a couple hours in the basement trying to clean up the mess I made yesterday when I moved a couple of bookcases and built book shelves.

One o’clock came and went. No plumber. Two o’clock came, still no plumber. At two thirty, and still no plumber, I figured I’d been patient long enough and called them up. After waiting on hold for a minute or two, the service department came on the line to tell me that they wouldn’t be able to get to me today and would have to reschedule. Wrong answer. And no apology. So I said I would have to talk to my boss about getting another day off and would get back to them.

Then I called another plumber. Maybe this isn’t kosher, but I don’t care. When I have an appointment with someone, and they don’t show and don’t call me to tell me they won’t be able to see me, I figure the deal is off, and if I can strike a deal with someone else, then that’s what I’ll go with.

When the service department came on the line, I told the guy about my problem, told him what had happened to me today for the sake of full disclosure, and asked if he could help me. When he wanted to know what kind of water heater I had and I gave him the brand name, he said that was the top of the line and should still be under warranty. He could send someone out first thing Friday morning. Fingers crossed, the water heater will hold out until then.

shelf life

Moving books again. I love books, but I’m getting just a little tired of moving them around all the time.

I built a set of book shelves in my basement lair, which means I had to move the 400 or so books that were stacked up on the cheap-ass book shelves I was using in the meantime. I heaped them up in piles around the edges of the lair, weeding out copies of books I had duplicates of, or hadn’t touched in years. or were about subject I didn’t even know I had once been interested in. I also threw away anything printed on cheap pulp. I had more of those than I ever would have thought.

The new book shelves are made from raw plywood wedged between two by fours and work surprisingly well, given that I made them up out of my own head. The top three shelves are actually the only ones made with books in mind. They’re just eight inches deep and spaced so that mass-market paperbacks would fit perfectly between. The bottom three shelves are much deeper than necessary for plain old books. They’re made for the growing horde of typewriters I’ve been gathering over the years. What’s the point of having all those books, or typewriters, if you don’t put them on display, right?

Putting up the shelves took longer than I thought it would, about two days longer. I cut grooves in the two by fours with a router so the plywood shelves would slide between them. I thought that would take about an hour. That took all afternoon on a Saturday several weeks ago. When I finally got up the steam to get the project going again, I spent a couple hours moving all the books and dragging the bookshelves out to the curb where, if my luck holds, someone will pick them up and stuff them into the back of their van. Then, I cut the two by fours to length, worked out a way to fix them to the floor and ceiling, and wedged the shelves between them. I was very pleasantly surprised at how well it worked, but I wasn’t finished until almost five o’clock this evening. Took me all friggen day.

the plan

The dishes are washed and drip-drying on the countertop, the cat dishes are washed and filled, I ate the last solid food I’ll have until tomorrow, and that’s everything I had planned for today. There’s nothing else. Oh, shit, there is something – I planned to clean the bathroom. Dammit! I hate cleaning the bathroom, but it’s got to be done. There are dust bunnies the size of water buffalo in there, and I don’t even want to think about how big the pathogens that are growing in the tile grout have gotten. When I hold still long enough, I’m pretty sure I can see them move.

Okay, fine. I’m going to clean the bathroom now. Hope you’re not.


Time for home maintenance! As soon as I got home yesterday, I had to unship the extension ladder from its hanger in the garage, tote it around to the back of the house and set it up against the eaves that were clogged up. It’s really too bad you weren’t there to watch me. With an extension ladder in my hands, I’m a one-man Three Stooges show, knocking something over every time I make the slightest turn. Best show I ever put on was the time I shoved it right through a screen window.

But so far, the costs of the damage outweigh the costs of hiring a handyman to come do the work for me, so I keep on trying. This evening, I was trying to figure out why the rainwater was dribbling over the end of the eaves trough instead of going down the downspout. Doesn’t do much good to have a downspout that the water doesn’t go down. Turned out that the drain at the end of the trough was plugged full of those little twirlies that fall off maple trees. There were so many twirlies packed into a wad so tight that I had to take apart the elbow in the downspout to get them out.

I checked the other downspouts and found one more that was clogged by twirlies. The rest were good, and I was well-chuffed by the fact that I managed to walk the ladder all the way around the house without putting out a single window. Yay, me.


Was going to put together the book shelves in the guest room and fix them to the walls, but My Darling B talked me into watching a movie instead. Too late after the movie to bang holes in walls. Too sleepy to use power tools. Off to bed.

Good movie, though. Doubt with Meryl Streep. I love watching Meryl Streep do her job.


Ouch. I have so many cuts on my fingers from working in the basement yesterday, and I use the work “working” in the sense of doing something I like to do, not in the sense of laboring all day for The Man. Fun Stuff. I finished building my desk yesterday (see yesterday’s megaparagraph) which, because it’s smaller than the door I was using as a desk before, frees up some room in my basement lair as well as some room in the work shop where the desk top was loitering while I was disgusted with it. In a frenzy of activity, I finished the desk, moved a lot of lumber around and started cleaning up the basement lair, and whenever there’s that much big, heavy stuff being shifted, hammered on and screwed together, There Will Be Blood. I cut my fingers in at least a half-dozen places, and they’re not going to heal until maybe April because I’ve got some kind of weird old guy disease that makes all my skin dry up and crack during the winter, and if I cut a finger, especially when I skin a knuckle, it just bleeds and bleeds and bleeds and bleeds and bleeds. There aren’t enough Band-Aids in the world to take care of this problem. Several of the cuts are on the tips of my fingers, so just typing this drivel is physically painful. I have to go take my morphine now.


Saturday’s afternoon project was supposed to take about an hour. Naturally, it ended up lasting about two hours longer than that.

I had to move a junction box and run a length of wire across the room to a pair of electrical outlets I wanted to mount on opposite walls in the work shop. I use a lot of power tools when I’m being handy. Power tools are the number-one best reason to be handy, so I’ve pieced together a collection of the biggest, noisiest once I could find. The first question I ask when buying a power tool is, in fact, “How noisy is it? Does it shriek like an otherworldly monster? Will I feel as if my heart’s being torn out of my chest when I start it up?” It’s the only way to know if a power tool’s any good. If a table saw isn’t loud enough to at least cause permanent nerve damage to your hearing, it won’t do a good job of cutting wood either, I promise.

The power tools I have draw something like a trillion amps each. In everyday terms, that means that, when I pull the trigger on a circular saw, the lights dim in all the houses in Madison, or at least they do if I have it plugged in to an ordinary socket on the same electrical circuit with everything else in the house. If I have it plugged in to a heavy-duty electrical outlet, no problems. The work shop is in a corner of the basement where there’s just one ordinary outlet, though, so I had run an extension cord to it and dim the lights a lot.

Then there’s the problem of using one extension cord to juice all my power tools. When I’m working on a big project that calls for me to break out five or six power tools, I’m constantly scrambling to find the end of the cord to unplug the power tool I was just using, then plug in the power tool I’m going to use next. This quickly becomes a huge pain in the ass.

As luck would have it, there was a heavy-duty outlet in the corner of the basement opposite the work shop. Apparently the washer and dryer used to be down there, so they rigged a trillion-amp circuit for them and left it there when the next owner of the house decided to move the washer and dryer upstairs. I could put this massively powerful outlet to good use if I ran a heavy-gauge wire across the room to the work shop. So that’s what I did.

Any clown can tack a wire up. That was the easy part. To hook up a pair of outlets on either side of the room I had to split it at a junction box, then run a wire down either wall. If rooms were empty boxes, this would be as simple as it sounds, but they’re not. The junction box had to be awkwardly mounted between two overhead joists, and the wire had to be threaded over a vent, through a brace, over another vent, behind an electrical outlet and finally over a conduit. Electrical wire comes from the store in a tight coil, so I had to simultaneously work the twists and kinks out of it as I was trying to do all this threading. And because this was for a heavy-duty circuit, I was using very thick wire. This part required a lot of cussing.

Every project has to have a major glitch. On this project, I didn’t remember to put up the junction box right away. I ran the wire down the east wall from the ceiling. I don’t know why. Maybe I was listening to the music a little too much. Maybe I’m just a dumbass, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I had to stop, step back from the job to get a good look at what I’d done, facepalm myself, then argue with myself for five or ten minutes. Part of me wanted to half-ass the job by leaving the wire where it was because I didn’t want to pull out all the staples I’d used to fix the wire to the wall, cut it where the junction box should have been, and rework it from there. That part of me lost the argument.

The only other part of the job that took longer than it should have was piecing together the outlets. They weren’t a kind I’d used before so I had to put one together, then take it all apart to get the wires in, then put it back together, then take it all apart again to hook up the ground, then put it back together again. More cussing required. But at least I didn’t have to do that for the second outlet.

A job like this is a success when I can do three things: turn the power back on and the circuit breaker doesn’t pop; plug a power tool in and it works; and, of course, not get electrocuted during any of this. I am happy to report complete success. The table saw screamed to life on the first try. So did the miter saw. And the lights flickered a bit, but I didn’t cause the usual brownout across six counties. So yay.


You know how sometimes a project you’ve been thinking about for weeks will suddenly percolate to the top of your mind and you’ll suddenly be seized with a compelling need to complete it? Please tell me you know exactly what I’m talking about. I need to know I wasn’t possessed by demons.

I was thinking about two projects while I was walking trough the aisles at Menard’s this afternoon. One of the projects was an almost complete plan to put up a pair of book cases in the spare bedroom, and the other project was a half-baked idea to wire a couple of electrical outlets so I could hang a couple fluorescent lamps in the basement. The book cases have priority because we still have big cardboard boxes filled with books that really have to be uncrated and stacked on shelves before they decompose where they’re sitting, so naturally I spent the afternoon with my arm stuck up to the elbow in a freshly-cut hole in the basement trying to fish electrical wire between the floor joists.

I couldn’t understand why I was doing that, even while I was doing it. I kept asking myself, Why am I even doing this right now? I was even saying it out loud. It was a project that was so back-burner, it wasn’t even on the stove. It was in the freezer, still wrapped up in heavy butcher’s paper, solid as a rock. I thought maybe I’d get around to it later in the winter when all the other projects had been bumped down the list and I was looking for something to do. But no. Some weird need boiled to the surface and I found myself drilling holes in the ceiling, talking to myself.

Well, it’s done now. The subterranean vaults of Our Humble O’Bode are no longer dark and forbidding, and that project won’t be hijacking my afternoon ever again. I feel so used.