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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Very Stupid Day

I can only describe yesterday as a very stupid day. Thanks to Google and the proliferation of stupid blogs, I am assured that I am not the only person who has the occasional Very Stupid Day.

The day started with discovering that the ceiling-mounted fluorescent lights in the kitchen aren’t working. I recalled having an electrician in to install the fixture, but I couldn’t find any records. I dragged Kathleen into the search. After about an hour, I recalled that the installation I remembered was in our house in Milwaukee, where we haven’t lived for about seven years. So goes the first Very Stupid Hour of the Very Stupid Day.

DIY Step 1 – Replace all four tubes in the fixture. Drive to the local hardware store, find the right tubes, drive home, remove old tubes (fluorescent lights rarely can be fixed by replacing some rather than all of the tubes). Testing fluorescent lights can be tricky, because the mountings for the tubes (appropriately called tombstones) are pretty touchy. So I inserted and reinserted the tubes’ contacts several times. No luck still just getting a flicker. So went the next hour of the Very Stupid Day.

DIY Step 2 – Having determined the problem was more than blown tubes, I went back the internet to find instructions for the next steps. I looked at several sets of instructions which for the most part contradicted each other, so I had to figure out a “consensus approach from about three DIY websites. So went the next hour of the Very Stupid Day.

DIY Step 3 – Examined the wiring for visible bad connections. I removed the new tubes, and opened up the protective plate covering the ballasts and wiring. I am sure the protective covering is designed in some part top keep people like me away from the inner workings. HAH, I showed them! I looked at the wiring for about 10 minutes, gently pulling to test wires for faulty connections. All the connections looked OK to me. I wrote down the model numbers etc. on the ballasts, since after this test, it appears that the ballasts (really power transformers) are probably the problem. So goes the next hour of the Very Stupid Day.

DIY Step 4 – Went to the home improvement big-box stores to figure out what to do next. Went to Home Depot, where I learned that (1) if I replace the entire fixture, I will need to special – order to get a fixture the same size as the current fixture. This means that replacing the fixture with a more reasonably priced fixture will require repainting the kitchen ceiling, or promising myself to never look up in the kitchen, and (2) ballasts vary in cost, from about $45 to $120 in total for the two ballasts I probably need to replace. Replacing the ballasts could cost more than replacing the entire lighting unit. Given that I don’t have the tools or the “know-how” to be sure of where the problem is located (power source versus ballasts versus tombstones), the next step will involve attempting to install a bunch of expensive components that I am not sure of how to select the right component, or how to install it correctly, without electrocution. I also visited Lowe’s to reinforce this conclusion. I realized that it was after 1:00 PM, so I stopped at a local taqueria for a burrito. I ate too much, but with little real consequence. So goes the next two hours of the Very Stupid Day.

DIY Step 5 – I called Oleg the housepainter, who is our link into the world of reputible local Russian immigrant contractors (probably another Ivan or Vlad). He will call back today with a referral for an electrician. It was a very stupid day, because I could have just called Oleg at the beginning of all this, after the new tubes didn’t work.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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I must enjoy shouting into a vacuum, but I think about getting my act together one of these days. My mom says I am very handsome and intelligent.

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