Letters to Holly

Monday, September 8

A Weekend of Competence

Your Sister began her three-day motorcycle safety class Friday night. I should have wallowed in bachelor decadence, but I'm shaking from caffeine. I got productive.

The motion detector went kaput early last year, and a change of bulbs dis nothing. Now I always suspected that the bulbs were the wrong kind, but I didn't have the instructions for the thing, and I had no way of resetting it once the right bulbs were found. A motion detector has to be programmed, and they all work similar but with enough variance to make deciphering its particular system infuriating. I was also concerned with the level of bug habitation I saw within the detector. If it was original to the house, like the water heater, it, like the water heater, may have died on us, like the water heater. A new one was needed.

I picked one up at Lowe's and got bulbs that the package called for. Now, it's been a long time since my wiring/AC/heating job. It was my first paying gig, and my mom set it up to see if I was salvageable as a man. For an entire summer, I squirmed through crawlspaces and attics with a co-worker of hers who had a side job, and he was commissioned to talk to me about guy movies and sports. I'm convinced of this. I did pick up some simple skills from him too, but that was -- oh, my -- 23 years ago. I couldn't rely on my memory of wires to get me through this. Luckily, the detector had enough instructions to get me started, and if the wiring was my only obstacle, I would have been fine.

When I got home, I discovered the new one wouldn't affix to the housing. The detector housing is a shallow metal cylinder. Like an ashtray. The original model had a center screw, and this new one had a faceplate for round housings. To make it work, I would have to cut away the siding, and that was getting more involved than I already wanted to be. Back to the store. I upgraded the model. That was Saturday morning. I figured, while I was there, I'd get a cheap voltage tester. I knew to shut off the circuit breaker before playing with a device like this, but it's best to test those wires before you grab them. They didn't have the simple, cheap testers. All they had were at least $15, and I didn't want to spend that for a one-time device.

Got back home, cut the circuit breaker for half of the house, and started reverse-engineering the wiring. I found the black, white and ground wires. I gingerly, meekly, timidly, terrifiedingly touched them to make sure they weren't live. They were not. I checked the new mounting bracket; it would fit the housing, but the screw that came with the new model was too long for the housing. No problem; I used the old model's screw. I took down the old mounting bracket because the new ground wire didn't look right. Instead of a coated wire, this was a tiny copper rope. Like a toy golden lasso. I didn't like that, so I removed that from the new model, and attached the original model's ground wire to it. Instead of the bracket, the ground wire now attaches to the device. Also, the house wires were huge compared to the model wires, and I had to use the original wire twists to bind them. Here's my point: Every step of this was different than what the instruction model said. And the accessories were insufficient.

I wired up the new model to the house wires and realized I had forgotten the black rubber seal that covers the interior. I had to now unwire everything, lead the house wires through the seal, and rewire. I bolted the detector to the bracket. Now to install the bulbs. First one went in fine. Second one broke. The screw piece broke off in the socket. After wrenching that out, I had to go back to the store to get a new bulb two-pack. This was the second time in two hours that I was there for an exchange. Back home, I screwed in the bulbs. I turned on the breakers and flipped the light swith. I had light. The wiring was solid. I followed the instructions to set the detector settings, and later that night, I tried it out, and the lights clicked on. Four minutes later, they went off as they were programmed to. I did it.

Your Sister came home that night exhausted after nine hours of biking and testing. She went back teh next day, and I patched up the gutters which we now suspect are also as old as the hosue and need to be replaced. She came home last night, equally tired and sore, but possessing a safety endorsement. She passed the test and can now get a cycle status added to her license. She trained on a big cycle, not a scooter, and she wants to see if a motorcycle is something she can afford to buy, fuel, and insure.

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I'm going to move my sketch scans to FaceBook. I doodled quite a bit this weekend on comic design stuff.
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I'm reeling from a long, weird dream last night where I was on a luxury spaceship infested with the monsters from Alien. It ended with tranquilizer-aided suicide. I don't think it means anything.

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Your Mom called to ask if we were doing Thanksgiving at Your Brother's house. I told her we had made that plan before Dad died and cemented it right after. Brooke took to Mom.

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We hope school's going OK for you. If you need to call us for a mental break, please do. My phone is virtually always on.

Picture of the Day
This doesn't mean anything either.

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