Archive for Surlywood

A splash of color

Trini, wielder of the mighty smartphone, snagged this photo (and a few others) from the west end of my flower box this weekend.

Flowers of mine as photographed by Trini

A couple of clusters of roses, a trace of yellow-orange from irises — I also have white ones, but not at this angle — and off to the upper right, the pointy leaves of a holly.

I may serve up a few more of these in the coming days.

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A small break

Last year, the bank declared that I somehow had way too little in escrow, and duly commanded me to fork over an extra $130 a month to bridge the gap — or send them a check for a rather large sum I didn’t happen to have at the time. I did some calculations, because that’s what I do, and after some third-grade arithmetic I determined that the escrow shortage would have been cleared with a mere $80 a month, but there’s no arguing with the bank on these matters. Perhaps, I figured, they will drop it next year after they’ve taken a few dives into the vault, à la Scrooge McDuck.

Comes the notification. Payment is dropping by $75 a month. In response, I spent rather a long time in Told You So mode, though it didn’t seem useful at the moment to tell them so.

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When things get complicated

Middle of the morning, I got a note from a neighbor via Nextdoor: “I am going to close your garage door.” This, of course, leads to the obvious question: why in the fark is it open? I contemplated several possibilities, the most unnerving of which was the chance that someone might have figured out the Double Super Secret Code that runs the remote. This particular garage-door opener dates back to — well, not the Pleistocene, exactly, but it’s old enough to have its code set by a row of jumpers, the sort of thing we haven’t seen since we got rid of master and slave drives in PCs. I put in a call to William of Ockham, who noted that I happened to be carrying two remotes, one in the car, one on my person, and if I started the process with the former and inadvertently engaged the latter while turning away from the house, I could easily have created this situation myself. I argued that I didn’t think the secondary remote had that kind of range, but to no avail. I arrived back home about 11:30, and everything seemed to be in order.

And it is an election day, so I figured I’d take care of that detail on the way back to work. Turnout was expected to be light, given the single race on the ballot: finishing the unexpired term of Oklahoma County Court Clerk Tim Rhodes, who resigned last year to take a job at the Corp Comm. I did not, however, imagine it to be this light: at a quarter to twelve, four hours and forty-five minutes into the session, I was preceded by a mere 23 voters. There are more than 1500 registered voters in this precinct.

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Continuous reassessment

Leonard Sullivan, the County Assessor, is expected to come up with a new value for every single parcel of land in the 700-odd square miles that make up this rectangular-looking county, every single year. It’s a tag-team deal: Sullivan issues his assessments in the spring, and County Treasurer Butch Freeman figures the tax bills in the fall.

In the twelve years I’ve been here, the value has been on a bit of a roller coaster: it rose markedly once I got here, for which I claim no credit whatsoever, and then it plunged during the Great Recession. Things have leveled out a bit since then. This year, Sullivan says that the palatial estate at Surlywood is worth 1.7 percent more than it was last year, which should not result in a whopping tax increase unless Freeman goes berserk or the Feds decide to foreclose on the County Jail, and the latter has apparently been ruled out until 2018 at the earliest.

Last year’s tax bill was a hair over $900; I will be surprised should it rise to $1000. (It’s been there before, though.)

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First rose of 2016

This bud opened up over the weekend, despite being bracketed by two frosty mornings in succession. It’s at the very edge of the rosebush.

First rose of 2016

From the looks of things, this rose has a visitor.

(Embiggened version at Flickr.)

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The disappearing woodpile

Shortly after the official ice-storm debris had been hauled away by the city, I got the bright idea of having the backyard wood, which consisted of two and a half full (albeit dead) trees plus a stack of limbs slightly shorter than I am, rendered into almost-handy-sized remnants and parked on the curb just in time for the second debris pass. Unfortunately, I got this idea about 24 hours after the second pass was completed, although I didn’t actually read the schedule until two days later. (So much for semper paratus.)

Not to worry, said everyone. The city will pick it up as part of Big Junk, the monthly collection of non-hazardous materials that won’t fit in the official blue bins. Four cubic yards goes free; after that, it’s about $10 per cubic yard. Not a bad deal, all things considered. And then I looked at the expanse of dead-tree stuff, three or four feet high and seemingly 30 feet long, and wondered just how much of this crap they’d be willing to take, and how much it would cost me if they did.

Short version: They took all they could load into the truck, though inevitably some of it dropped out of the giant claw. And the pertinent bill was $20.42, the regular monthly charge for once-a-week trash service; apparently it all fit into four cubic yards.

Or maybe not, said a resident who’s been here longer than I have: “Sometimes,” she said, “they don’t even bother to record these things because it’s more trouble than it’s worth.”

Then again, this is the first month with the New and Improved Water Bill, so I’ll watch for one more month before I declare this matter closed.

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Shed shed

From late in the fall, and fall is the operative word here:

Gale-force winds for much of Wednesday came awfully close to blowing my old metal shed off its concrete block. There wasn’t much of anything out there worth saving — a bottom-of-the-line broadcast spreader was about it — but the structure itself looks like about two and a half seconds before the end of a round of Jenga.

You may safely assume that it didn’t gain any additional stability in the last hundred days or so, and yesterday I had it torn down. No great loss.

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Some things you are not meant to know

This is, I hope, the last chapter in the water-heater debacle. Cue Ed McMahon: “How … hot … IS IT?”

Well, it’s like this: today, it’s apparently considered bad form to put any kind of actual numbers on the control knob. There’s a dot, and there’s the word “VACATION” about 180 degrees away from it. Nowhere will you find 180 actual Fahrenheit-approved degrees, which is too hot anyway. In the US, everybody says 120. The Canadians beg to differ:

To reduce the risk of burns from hot tap water, the temperature setting on the water heater can be turned down. But if the temperature is set too low, bacteria may begin to grow in the tank. Even at 60°C — the setting on most electric water heaters — an estimated 25% of all water heaters are contaminated by legionella bacteria.

Legionella bacteria tend to grow in the lower temperatures at the bottom of water heater; such bacteria can cause a form of pneumonia. The organism is generally transmitted when people inhale contaminated water droplets from whirlpool baths, showers or building air conditioning systems. In Québec, about 100 people a year are hospitalized for pneumonia caused by contaminated residential water heaters.

In light of the statistics, it is not advisable to lower the water heater temperature to, say, 49°C. This would not only reduce the hot water supply by some 20%, it would also put your household at risk of contracting pneumonia.

Forty-nine degrees Celsius is — guess what? — 120°F.

So I feel much better with my estimated 140°F (60°C) setting. Admittedly, this would be considered a seat-of-the-pants estimate if pants were involved, which they are not. My criterion, using my current single-knob shower, is this: “With the knob turned all the way up, does it seem like it’s almost too hot?” If so, the setting is correct. It reminds me somehow of P. J. O’Rourke’s advice on steak in an iron skillet: “As soon as you think the steak should cook just a little longer, stop cooking it.” This, of course, assumes the steak is as thick as the heel of a Bass Weejun.

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Warm-water update

When last we looked in on the Great Water Heater Caper of 2016, I was vowing vengeance on the uncooperative elements, which in circumstances like these tend to be all of them.

For maximum spitefulness, I called in at 6:30 am Wednesday, thereby cementing my reputation as a Nasty Person for all time. The tech arrived a couple of hours later with about twice as many tools and, eventually, a sheepish admission: “I think I may have cracked the thermocouple.”

Off to the parts depot to obtain an uncracked thermocouple. He had to eat the cost of it, so it’s probably a good thing he identified the problem component fairly quickly. No further issues, and smiles all around when he left.

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Wet but not hot

When I feel like pretending I’m a Mad Scientist, I tell people I have a closet totally devoted to the distribution of hot, maybe even scalding dihydrogen monoxide. Of course, if they pop open the door and see this perfectly ordinary water heater, they’re going to be disappointed, but such is life.

I got my own disappointment over the weekend, when “hot” was displaced by “tepid, if you’re lucky.” I am not lucky, at least in this regard. There are several cheap parts that go into one of these devices, and all of them were intact. However, the gas valve itself, which costs about half as much as the entire tank array, was kaput, and was replaced in a surprisingly brief session this afternoon, accompanied by the sound of money disappearing in the distance.

Upside, such as it is: while the standard “These things don’t last as long as they used to” disclaimer was issued, no indication was given that this particular thing was on its last legs. And frankly, next time around, I’m considering buying smaller, on the basis that a device of this sort ought to fit into its space, and this one, installed some time last decade, was put in sideways, with the control gizmos facing the side wall. Had I screaming kids lined up to bathe, of course, I might see things differently. Downside, apart from the expense: the unwritten law says that you set the thermostat to 120°F for Safety Reasons. I strongly suspect that no two thermostats agree on where exactly 120°F should be.

Update, next morning: The fix didn’t take, or something. I am currently in the mode best described as “You will fix this, and you will fix this now, or I will kill you and tell God you died.” Okay, maybe not quite that harsh.

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Soffit assault

Eventually, after the ice storm was over and the temperature had climbed up to a tropical 35° and I had regained a measure of composure, I sat down and muttered something to the effect that at least it didn’t blow through my insurance deductible.

And then I went out back and saw this:

Hole in the wood trim

The connector for the cable TV and Internet was mounted on a board that used to be where that hole is; a couple of limbs of the back-door holly, loaded up with too close to an inch of ice each, pulled it, and the board, a good four feet back of the house. I stuffed the hole with my last few pieces of bubble wrap in an effort to keep the moisture out, and started hunting down hungry contractors.

Found one on Wednesday; he gave me a bid, scheduled the job tentatively for Friday — it wound up being Saturday, but no big deal — and to give the guy credit, that section looks better now than it did several years ago.

And amazingly, I still haven’t blown through my insurance deductible, though I can think of lots of things I’d rather have spent money on in preference to recovering from one of Mother Nature’s bitchy fits.

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Cube heaven

You might recall this from late summer:

I filled up the ice mold from a coffee cup; two hours later it had produced the expected number of cubes, but the mold was empty. This tells me that the mechanism still works, but the water valve is toast. A parts operation offered to sell the valve separately, for about 60 percent of the price of an entire icemaker. (Lowe’s has a bolt-in replacement for about $100.)

Thursday I actually got around to summoning a repairman, and I recounted this story to him. He nodded. “Yep, that’s probably what it is.” He removed the valve, and found it unsuitable for any use other than industrial-art paperweight. Price of the new valve: $41.18. (Service call: $86.) The list of Things Needing Fixing grows ever so slightly shorter.

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November in a nutshell

This sequence of events is a perfect metaphor for the way this month has gone.

The house in which I live was built in 1948, and some of its fixtures are either original or so old they might as well be. There are two towel bars in the bathroom, each suspended by a pair of ceramic holders; the smaller one has a spring-loaded ceramic bar, the larger one a similar-looking bar, but plastic. I found this out when I went scooting across the floor on a not-yet-wet bath mat, grabbed the bar with my left hand, and watched as it broke almost exactly in half.

I rigged up a temporary fix, involving good old strapping tape, and on an impulse, I checked to see if Amazon had a replacement bar. They had three of them, as it happens; but two of them were restricted to Prime members only. Disinclined to put up $99 for the privilege of spending ten bucks on a plastic rod, I passed them by, and several pages down found the third, from a merchant in Arizona. Five bucks for the bar itself, seven for shipping. Well, thought I, it’s not gonna fit in an envelope, y’know?

It somehow arrived about two days ahead of schedule, despite the punishing weather. (The postman actually clambered through the space I’d cleared in the Fallen Branch Zone and left it on the porch.) Grateful for anything that worked at this point, I hurriedly opened the box, verified that the sizes were correct, and took it into the bathroom.

The old one wouldn’t come out. It was solid, inflexible, and incompressible. Almost like it was, um, ceramic.

If all my temporary fixes worked this well … but never mind, it’s not going to happen.

And with the house in utter darkness for another night, and me stuck on a 15-year-old laptop that can no longer keep up, this may be the last update for a while: the strange-query feature and the Thunder game recap tomorrow will likely be delayed.

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A waste of water

This should be ice in my drinks, not ice all over the foliage:

The stubbornest rose of all

We were visited last night by the Ice Fairy, or some such nuisance like that: it will take a guy with a chainsaw (due tomorrow) to clear away enough of the mulberry to open up the driveway, which was utterly impassable this morning. I’ve seen worse, but this is bad enough.

(Embiggened version on Flickr. You know that one holdout rose from a couple weeks ago? It’s still there.)

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Where it all goes (’15)

The county was a little late getting the property-tax bills out, though of course they’re not going to be cutting taxpayers any slack in getting those bills paid. The actual amount I get to pay is a smidgen higher than last year, due to a small increase in the assessed value and a fraction of a mill added to the actual tax rate. Here’s where all those dollars go, and in brackets, where they went last year:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $124.57 [$120.39]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $476.19 [$462.53]
  • Metro Tech Center: $123.21 [$120.39]
  • Oklahoma County general: $94.03 [$90.78]
  • Countywide school levy: $33.02 [$32.26]
  • City/County Health Department: $20.66 [$20.18]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $41.47 [$40.52]
  • Total: $913.14 [$887.04]

This year’s millage is 114.50, up from last year’s 113.84. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.) The bank presumably will cut them a check on Monday.

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Let’s do it again

While my attention was focused on the back yard and my presumably soon-to-disintegrate shed, the roses up front were assembling a final forward thrust for fall, and this was the first one out:

One rose, photographed on 14 November 2015

At center-bottom you can see one of the reinforcements coming in: there are a dozen buds at the moment, and temperatures look to remain above freezing for at least the next week.

As usual, there’s a bigger version at Flickr.

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“Shed” is also a verb

Gale-force winds for much of Wednesday came awfully close to blowing my old metal shed off its concrete block. There wasn’t much of anything out there worth saving — a bottom-of-the-line broadcast spreader was about it — but the structure itself looks like about two and a half seconds before the end of a round of Jenga. Replacing it would cost somewhere around half my insurance deductible, so I’m waiting to see what the weekend brings before I contemplate this matter further.

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Goblin report

A slow start, and inevitably a slow finish, but in between was a pretty steady flow of trick-or-treaters: fifty-three in all, second highest on record, beating out the 49 count in 2012. (I don’t ever expect to see the 2010 record of 102 broken.)

At some point during grocery shopping this afternoon, I decided “Maybe I need just one more bag.” Turns out, I needed at least a third of that bag. Otherwise, the event was, um, largely uneventful; one girl tried to exit through the rosebush — she won’t try that again — and one very sleepy boy in a stroller wasn’t quite sure what was going on.

And yes, I unloaded all the Twizzlers: the first 45 customers got one along with a Mild Amusement Size candy bar.

Update, 8:45 pm: I am informed — and provided with photographic evidence — that Number One grandson, the guy who did his best James Bond earlier this month, went full-on girl mode for this event.

Update, 8:55 pm: Number One granddaughter — she’s twelve — made a pretty convincing-looking Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers.

Update, 9:15 pm: While cleaning up the inevitable disorder, I found one stray Twizzler. Damn.

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Undead trees

You may remember this from early 2010:

The plumber stared in disbelief. “Roots, all right. But this is a plastic line.”

Which, as we used to say, can mean only one of one thing: the suckers had grown into the junction between the metal pipe inside the house and the plastic stuff that leads to the city sewer. It’s a good ten feet from any actual trees, but trees don’t much care about distance.

At the time, the following options were offered: rip out those pipes and replace that junction, at a cost that would make one’s nose bleed, or have the line scoured out every five years to get rid of the offending roots.

Welcome to 2015. I have three fewer live trees now, but roots apparently are the zombies of the plant world. (Which would complicate Plants vs. Zombies, wouldn’t it?)

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Still unchewed after all these years

I acquired the palatial estate at Surlywood in 2003, and one of the details that had to be addressed before closing was termite certification; a local firm was called in to look the place over and destroy any trace of the little so-and-sos. As it turns out, none were found.

However, I retained the same firm to come back in twelve months and recheck, and they’ve been by every year since then. So far, so good.

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Decreasingly dear

Last year’s homeowner’s-insurance lament:

Obviously this downward trend could not be allowed to continue, so this year it’s going to nearly $3000. This, mind you, on a house insured for a mere $130,000. I can only conclude that they expect a visit from Godzilla, or that they’re wanting to get their hands on some of those sweet, sweet government bucks the way the health-insurance guys have.

Well, the escalator clause each year has two effects: it increases the total amount of coverage, and it jacks up the deductible for wind and hail, which is a percentage of the total amount of coverage. I’m thinking these two numbers don’t combine neatly, which may or may not explain the $170 decrease in the premium.

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Reddish alert

The day after the Giant Moon Blockout Party, or whatever, what I thought was a leftover stem from this year’s white irises, presumably in hibernation until spring, suddenly straightened up, and over the next couple of days produced, well, this:

Mysterious red-orange flower

I tossed a version of this picture up on Twitter to see what the hive mind had to say; first response (via @s_r_s) was red spider lily (Lycoris radiata), about which much has been said:

When the flowers of lycoris bloom, their leaves would have fallen; when their leaves grow, the flowers would have wilted. This habit gave rise to various legends. A famous one is the legend of two elves: Mañju, who guarded the flower, and Saka, who guarded the leaves. Out of curiosity, they defied their fate of guarding the herb alone, and managed to meet each other. At first sight, they fell in love with each other. God, exasperated by their waywardness, separated the miserable couple, and laid a curse on them as a punishment: the flowers of Mañju shall never meet the leaves of Saka again.

It was said that when the couple met after death in Diyu (hell), they vowed to meet each other after reincarnation. However, neither of them could keep their word.

So evidently it belongs here, in the land of frustrated longings.

(A full three-point-whatever megapixel shot is on Flickr.)

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Prepared for the worst

When I got home today, I found a standard #10 envelope by the front door, hand-inscribed “Dear Neighbor.” I figured it had to deal with one of two things that someone must have seen: my faceplant by the curb this morning, which didn’t seem too worrisome — someone offering to help in the future, maybe? — or my brief(less) stargazing experience from last night, which probably wasn’t so good.

(There is a nonzero probability that someone may have murmured “Thank God, we thought we were the only ones!” Still, nonzero does not mean a long way from zero.)

Of course, it turns out to be neither, but a flyer, a much-photocopied cover letter from one “Jennifer R.”, and a pair of tickets to this:

International Youth Fellowship (IYF) USA and Gracias Choir will be back on the road to present the 2015 Gracias Christmas Cantata US Tour across 25 cities from September 19th to October 16th. Christmas Cantata features 3 dynamic stages filled with cherished carols, gorgeous sets, and an eternal message of hope wrapped in one huge, breathtaking show.

Admission to Christmas Cantata is FREE but each performance is first-come, first-served and seating is limited. So find a Christmas Cantata tour stop near you, and request your tickets now. You can also make a donation to our US Tour and reserve your seats without waiting in line!

Come celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with Gracias Choir and IYF: the birth of love, hope, and happiness in each and every one of hearts. #BringTheJoy

Everybody has a hashtag these days. [sniff]

The local showing is Saturday night (10/10) at 7 pm at the Civic.

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All plop, no fizz

As usual this morning, I walked down the driveway toward the curb to fetch the newspaper. (I am one of those people who actually would prefer an afternoon paper, but the ten or twelve of us who still exist don’t count for much.) As usual, it was positioned on the section of concrete with the sharpest slant.

They say “Use your knees, not your back” to pick up stuff. If they had knees like mine, they never would have said such a thing. The Monday paper being generally smallish, I had a long way to go, and calculating the geometry of the matter, I spread my feet apart a few inches to buy some vertical. And then, having seized the paper, I unaccountably pitched forward, two, three steps, and wound up washing my face in the morning dew.

The fact that I was able to get up from this was heartening, or at least not leading to despondency. I dusted myself off and headed for the shop, figuring I can use the time at that traffic snarl around Penn Square to report that I wasn’t going to be in by 6:30.

No phone.

Evidently when I pulled myself off the ground, the little so-and-so stayed behind. I made a modestly mad dash in the opposite direction, retrieved the device, and started over. Okay, it was closer to 6:45. I can live with that. And they’re going to have to, you know?

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Moon over Surlywood

Two conflicting urges here. I did want to get some sort of photographic record of the Big Fricking Bloody Moon Eclipse Thing while it was live; on the other hand, I have enough Sixties hippie left over inside me to insist that astronomical phenomena should be enjoyed in one’s most natural state.

Resolved, of course. Shot just over my roof, this is the Big Fricking Bloody Moon Eclipse Thing, and apparently nobody noticed the unclothed chap standing on his driveway — which is amazing, given my lack of suntan and consequent monstrously high albedo.

Super Blood Moon 2015

A somewhat embiggened version resides on Flickr for the moment.

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Carpe the crap out of this diem

Sometimes a noise wakes you; sometimes the absence of noise wakes you. I stirred this morning, rolled over enough to see the clock, and saw — nothing. The fan in the corner was dead. Great, thought I. Power outage. I duly punched up OG&E on the phone, reported the calamity, and after a few minutes the Brain Ready light finally came on.

You may remember this incident from the spring:

There used to be a metal pole west of the driveway that contained a light fixture; the light would go on at dark and turn off at sunrise, or at least it did for a while. Then the bulb socket broke, and I didn’t rush to have it fixed; when the ground to the west began eroding away, the pole began to lean at an embarrassing angle. Finally, on a day of 60-mph winds, the pole loosened up from what little base it had, and a couple of scavengers hauled it off for scrap metal.

I don’t miss it, exactly, but I’m wondering what I should do with this length of cable the thieves left behind. I am loath to call my usual electrician, since he’s fixated on bringing the whole house up to code, at a price that leaves little change from a $10,000 bill.

At the time, I covered up the bare ends of the wires and tucked the cable behind a shrub. Now, however, was a real opportunity. I threw on just enough clothing to avoid arrest and went at it with a pruning hook. Got the stub down below ground level, and then dropped a large rock over it.

As I was tossing that length of cable into the trash bin, the lights came back on. Had I dawdled three minutes more, you would presumably not be reading this.

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Light comedy

Who else, I ask you, brings you this much personal experience on the subject of light bulbs?

Last year, reader backwoods conservative observed:

What is recommended for garage doors is rough service bulbs. They have more supports for the filament and therefore do not break so easily. The bulb itself is often made stronger to be less prone to breakage. The information I have is that rough service bulbs are exempt from the new standards and will still be allowed. They are more expensive, but I hear they hold up very well.

I haven’t changed a bulb in the garage-door opener in a decade, and I am loath to start now. That said, a few weeks back the supermarket had a box of off-brand “rough-service” bulbs for a not-unreasonable price — three bucks for four bulbs — and I decided to give them a shot in some other applications.

And in those cases, the results were decidedly meh: the bulbs seem sturdy enough, and design life is no worse than other incandescents, but this particular series is rated at a meager 500 lumens, about a third less than one gets from the usual 60-watt classic. I would have known this, of course, had I bothered to read the actual box; it’s not like this little detail is hidden away.

Meanwhile, this little contretemps was taking place in the kitchen:

[T]he hemidemisemiglobe, apparently insufficiently tightened down, yielded to the force of gravity, forcing me into Shard Removal mode. Results: fairly unsightly. On the upside, it’s a hell of a lot brighter in there, and now the freaking CFLs ought to work better, so long as I don’t actually replace the glass.

As it happens, I didn’t have any freaking CFLs in there, as they died entirely too quickly in the fixture with that glass dome in place. When one of the two 60-watt classics died last week, I wearily dragged out the stepladder, ascended to the heights, dismounted both incandescents, and installed two 20-watt CFLs, billed as the equivalent of 75-watters, which were not recommended for this fixture because, um, heat. Let’s see ’em get more than moderately warm without a big glass ball surrounding ’em. Further upside: 2400 lumens instead of 1600. Downside: it’s much easier to see how much the kitchen floor (white tile) needs a good mopping.

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Depreciated frozen asset

Monday evening, I popped open the freezer to withdraw something for Tuesday’s dinner, and there was a quarter-inch-thick coating of ice on the bottom. Even more fun, the ice bucket, normally filled with proper cubes, contained one large rectangular block of ice.

Most logical assumption: icemaker malfunction. I filled up the ice mold from a coffee cup; two hours later it had produced the expected number of cubes, but the mold was empty. This tells me that the mechanism still works, but the water valve is toast. A parts operation offered to sell the valve separately, for about 60 percent of the price of an entire icemaker. (Lowe’s has a bolt-in replacement for about $100.)

Now the fridge, a just-above-bottom-of-the-line Whirlpool masquerading as a Sears Kenmore, is about to reach its 12th birthday. I see no reason to spend the better part of a grand replacing the whole thing if I can replace the icemaker without incident. Then again, I have very little faith in my appliance-repair skillz.

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Low-yield incendiary device

It was, in fact, a teensy wedge of potato that somehow had glued itself to the underside of the back burner, presumably last week since I hadn’t used that burner since then. I duly set a very large pan of water back there to boil for pasta, waited about 90 seconds, and the smell rapidly overtook me. No problem identifying the source: the flames around the bottom of the pan gave it away. I withdrew the pan, turned off the burner, poked around with a wooden implement until the offending tuber was out of range, then resumed.

The stench remained, of course. I shut down the air conditioner, popped open several windows, and cranked up the attic fan. Win: it cleared the scent in three minutes flat. Lose: humidity inside climbed from just under 50 percent to just over 70.

The punchline here is that I used the A/C downtime to change out the filter, there being few instances of downtime of this sort generally available in July, and I admit it: I was a lot more panicky about getting that damned filter into place than I was about flames shooting out from under a pan.

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It’s all too much

Nothing in life prepares you for finding a hefty chunk of tree just lying in the street on an otherwise-peaceful morning.

Well, nothing has prepared me for it, anyway.

Update: Morning wood gone by evening, so to speak.

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