Saturday, January 3, 2015

Home Repairs

After many years of home ownership - or the next-best thing, which is taking care of a house that the bank still technically owns - I’ve concluded that some people are good at various home repairs while others should leave well enough alone. I’m clearly in the latter category.

Several weeks ago, I had what I later termed the Most Expensive Lightbulb Change Ever. It started with the discovery of a bulb whose glass had become detached from the metal base that screws into the socket. I’m not sure why - cheap bulbs, sitting in the fixture for at least 15 years, gravity increasing over time - but there it was. Step one: shut off the power. Amazingly, I found the right circuit breaker the first time, even though about half were labeled “Lights.” (Not very helpful, electrician who installed the setup.) Step two: use pliers to remove the metal base. That’s when things went south. The pliers didn’t work, so I searched for a little rubber device that will help remove broken bulbs.* After 20 minutes of searching, I finally located it in a storage bin in the garage. Step three: obtain the bulb remover. In doing so, I tipped over something liquid into the storage bin. Oops. Step four: clean up the liquid. In doing so, I spilled some vermiculite (the little crystals of glowing embers in a gas fireplace). Step five: clean up the vermiculite. I broke not one but two vacuum cleaners in the process. Step five complete, I went back to step four, then step three. Finally, with the bulb remover in hand, I took out the bulb base in about fifteen seconds and finished the job. Total time: forty-five minutes. Total cost: about $400. Sigh.

Today, in a fit of industriousness, I decided to tackle a project that had been lingering for several years: removing a hard drive from an old PC. These days, I routinely remove the drive before getting rid of the old machine. This PC dated from a time when I didn’t do that, but I was still sufficiently aware to know that I shouldn’t dispose of the unit - a mini-tower - with the drive still intact. So it sat in the cellar until a more propitious time, which turned out to be today. I figured this was a five-minute job. Ha! I opened the tower without trouble, disconnected everything hooked to the power supply, and started to remove the hard drive. Screwed in, and at such an angle that I couldn’t get a good angle on a screwdriver. I took out the RAM in order to get a better angle and managed to remove two screws. I couldn’t even see the other screws holding in the drive. I took off one of the two fans - well, I say took off, but I really mean “broke,” as it snapped off after I tried to remove it from the motherboard even after removing its screws. I tried and failed to remove the motherboard. I finally resorted to trying to get at the drive enclosure from the other side, which was the outside of the tower. Still no luck. At that point, I decided brute force was the answer. I wiggled the drive up and down inside the drive enclosure, hoping to shear off the remaining two screws, but not even that worked. I just ended up with the drive stuck hard in the enclosure. Sigh. My only consolations were that the drive was pretty thoroughly stuck and that any data on there are at least a half-decade old and the important stuff was probably encrypted. Total time: about a half-hour. Total cost: wounded pride and scraped knuckles.

Thank goodness for professionals. Now if only they’d return my phone calls...

* Yes, I know it looks like it has a different use. Everyone laughs. Fair enough. But it’s a very useful tool for dealing with broken bulbs and bulbs stuck in the socket.

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