Sunday, September 03, 2006

Where to start?

I suppose I should start at the top, the master shower. Dave the Plumber came back on Friday to demolish the floor of out shower. The old floor pan was made of some very heavy conglomerate, and he had to bust it up into a bunch of small chunks to get it out. He also took out the door and part of the wall (into which he will install the 4-head body wash system. After the floor pan was out, we could survey the extent of the damage. Looks like the water leak in the corner was fairly localized, which maybe 2 sq. ft of area affected. Also turned out the other three corners were leaking as well, one nearly as badly. Now, I'm trying to figure out if I need to take out the walls completely, or if this mess is patchable without causing even more leaks. There's a tile guy coming on Tuesday to give his opinion, but I'm kind of at this point leaning towards calling in a general contractor as we are now dealing with a plumber, a tile guy, and a glass guy (for the door), and no one yet has signed up for the drywall.

The plumbing work by itself is a little over $4k. Tile should also end with a "k".

Yesterday, we went to Best Buy to get a new TV. See, the new house has a lot more family rooms, so we need another TV. Our old 32" tube TV was just a mite too big for the built-in entertainment center thing in the upstairs family room, and we planned to stuff it in the entertainment center in the basement family room, which was the one we bought for it when we had first gotten the TV about 6 years ago.

Now, normally, I know that Best Buy isn't the most fun place to buy stuff. It's frequently hard to get any kind of service there. But I have one of those Best Buy Rewards Cards, and they keep sending me coupons. This time, it was a coupon for 12% off TVs (among other things) for this weekend only. The one thing I like about Best Buy is they usually have pretty good prices. And, hey, they're easier to deal with than Circuit City.

We wandered around the TV section a bit, looking at all the different kinds of TVs: plasma, LCD, tube, and projection. A guy named Jeff came over and asked if we needed help. And we did. We spent a long time chatting with him about the various types of TVs and their advantages and disadvantages. It seems if you want a plasma TV that is guaranteed not to hum at high altitude, you have to get a Panasonic, which are guaranteed to 10000 ft. But Panasonics start at $3k, and I was determined not to spend more than $2k.

That price range puts you down into the 32" LCD range, but nothing in the 32" LCD range looked too good to me. I didn't really like the pictures. Then, we ended up over at the DLP projections. Man, those are a much better deal. We got a nice Samsung widescreen HDTV, and it was only $1425. Then, we needed to get a new DVD player to go along with it, since HannieC had stuffed a sixth DVD into our 5-disc changer right before the move and totaled it. Our buddy JeffE suggested the matching Samsung DVD because it will hook right up with HDMI and will do "upscanning", which is kind of similar to the old scan-doubling from when projection TVs first came out. It interpolates extra lines that aren't on the DVD to make the image look smoother. It does look awfully, awfully nice playing DVDs. It makes the DirecTV signal look really lousy by comparison. An HDMI cable, however, turns out to cost $90. Sheesh.

Now all the fun started. I had a 12% off and a 10% off coupon. I told him I wanted the 12% off the TV and the 10% off the DVD. I also had the cable and another, cheapo (<$40), DVD player for the basement. He rang me up, I asked if the coupons got applied correctly. He said yes. You can't see the screen at Best Buy, only the total. I paid, he gave me the receipt and went to get a cart. The Mrs. told me to check the receipt. I looked. Why was 12% of $1425 only $72? And why was 10% of $98.99 $11.87? Clearly, the 12% went on the DVD and not the TV. But what in the heck went on the TV? It wasn't the 10%.

So JeffE comes back, and I tell him the coupons didn't work right. He says, yeah, one of them keep beeping at me, so I kept doing it until I finally took.

Well, it only did 5%, not 12%. That's $100 difference. I want my $100.

But we've already run the credit card through. I'll have to post-void it. I need a manager for that.

Just then, a customer service rep comes by, and he tells her the story. She tells him to post-void it, and give me 12% on both the TV and DVD for my inconvenience. But he'll need a manager to sign authorize the post-void.

Just then, a manager walks by. He gets the story, and he authorizes the post-void. Then he sticks around again to watch JeffE re-ring up the transaction. This time, I want to see the screen, so I'm leaning way over the counter to try to read the screen, but I can't. He rang up the TV by itself, cuz he couldn't do the 12% twice on the same ticket. He gives me my total, which is in the high $1300's. I say, are you sure it took 12% off? That should have been around $170. This seems like it took off less than that. He says, "It was a $1400 TV and it rang up at $1300, so yeah, it took it off." I said, "It was 1400-what?" He says, "$1425." I say, "$170 less than $1425 is less than $1300. How much did it actually take off?"


Now, the manager is standing right there, and he's going, "Yeah. This is wrong. Where in the heck did it get $103 from?" Just then another manager wanders by, and JeffE asks him if he knows what the computer is doing with these 12% coupons. The other guy says, "Yeah. It's giving random smaller discounts. I don't know why. I've had to manually override those coupons on every TV I've sold this weekend."

Well, it's nice that you told your employees about that problem. It's not like every damned TV in the store doesn't have a sign on it with a picture of the coupon telling you to download it from the Best Buy website to save 12%.

This is a scam, is what it is. For people who can't compute 12% in their head.

The nice thing is that JeffE and this other manager guy seemed to really want to fix it. But there was a lot of paperwork involved with first the post-void and then the manual override of the discount. We got through all that, got the right price in there, and I swiped my credit card again.

The card did not authorize. I was well below my credit limit, even considering the void of the first transaction hadn't yet happened, as credits take an extra day generally. JeffE calls the phone number for an authorization. The connect him to fraud prevention. He explains the whole thing. Then they need to talk to me. Then to him again. Then they finally give him an authorization code. We are now, mind you, about 20 minutes after I bought this TV for the first time, and we haven't rung up the two DVD players or the HDMI cable yet.

I use a different credit card for those.

Our neighbor across the street came to help me move the old TV downstairs and the new one into the family room. The new is is so much lighter than the old, despite being a 42" widescreen and the old being a 32" 4:3. I hooked it up with the new DirecTV tuner, as I had taken the old tuner downstairs with the old TV since its remote was already programmed for that TV and VCR, and I don't have any idea where the programming manual is for it. This is when I learned that the DirecTV guy had not actually activated the new box, despite saying he had to. This was nice, as there was no TV on it. But now I had to call DirecTV to get it turned on, and it was already mighty late given all the shenanigans at Best Buy (I didn't even talk about how the TV box didn't fit in the back of my truck with the camper shell on).

The thing I love about DirecTV is their responsiveness. Took about 30 seconds to get a person, and it took her maybe 3 minutes to get me activated. This is not the cable company.

Hmmm...I skipped over bar stools.

A few days ago, The Mrs. had called me at work to ask where there was a public library. It went like this:

Me, CherkyB: "I don't know."

The Mrs.: "Can you look it up on your compooter?"

Me, CherkyB: "You have a compooter and internet at home. Two even. I'm at work now."

The Mrs.: "It's a lot easier for me to call you at work and have you look it up than it is for me to try to look it up here, what with The Childrens and all."

Me, CherkyB: "Sigh. Hang on... 720 3rd St in Windsor. Go down main, and turn right at 3rd."

The Mrs.: "Is it right or left of main."

Me, CherkyB: "Right. Turn right on 3rd. It's to the right. There are railroad tracks to the left. You can only turn right."

The Mrs.: "Right as I'm going? Or right as I'm coming back?"

Me, CherkyB: "720 3rd St. Go down Main, turn right on 3rd. Go to 720. It'll be the library. I'm at work now."

The Mrs.: "Fine. I was just asking. "

A little while later, the phone rings.

Me, CherkyB: "Yes, ma'am."

The Mrs. "I'm on 3rd Street, but I don't see a library."

Me, CherkyB: "Did you go to number 720?"

The Mrs.: "I haven't seen a number yet. I'm right on the corner. But I found this great bar stool store. We're in it right now. They have all kinds of bar stools. And pool tables, too."

Me, CherkyB: "Well, the library is at number 720. Hmmm...there's a park in the middle of third street that you have to go around to get to 720. So go right at the park, then left on"

The Mrs.: "Yeah yeah yeah. I can find my way around a park. You don't need to tell me how to do that."

Me, CherkyB: "Then how come you can't find #720?"

The Mrs.: "Cuz I'm in a bar stool store, and I haven't looked for it yet."

Me, CherkyB: "Then why did you call telling me you couldn't find the library?"

The Mrs.: "I called to tell you I found a bar stool store."

Me, CherkyB: "Then why did you open with you didn't seen any library?"

The Mrs.: "Fine 720. Be like that. I'm going now. "

We went back to the bar stool store yesterday. HannieC had picked out bar stools for my bar. She was very proud of herself. I looked at al the bar stools. The one she picked out was the best. It wasn't the most expensive, either. Though not by all that much. They had one in stock, and we had to order two more. So I sit an blog from my new, cushy, swivel bar stool.

Today, The Mrs. got on me about the windows, and how I hadn't tried to fix them yet. I really wanted to use the windows in the eat-in portion of the kitchen, so I got out the little "E-clips" I had bought at Home Depot a couple weeks back, and got to work. I was able to fix the first window very rapidly with a 1/4" E-clip. The second window took a little longer, and required a 3/16". The post that was missing its clip was a little hard to get to on that one, plus it was hanging down rather than pointing up, so I had to hang my fool head out the window upside down to see what I was doing. But I got it fixed and headed up to MaxieC's room to look at his windows.

It's strange, given that the house is only 8 years old, that about 80% of the windows don't work. They're a brand called "Hurd", which I never heard of. Pardon the pun. Apparently, a Wisconsin outfit. Reviews on the web are kind of middle-range, so maybe the fact that the ones I have are complete crap is an anomaly. Or perhaps, it's just my bad luck.

I can't rule out that it is some kind of message from God, either. See, the guy who quit out here whose job I now have had Hurd as his last name.

Up in MaxieC's room, one of the windows seem to be OK. The other has a gear-alignment problem, where the crank gear has about 1/16" of vertical play in it, and it slips off the window arm gear when you turn the crank. This really needed something like a 1/2" E-clip, I think. But I improvised and jammed a washer in there for now to take out the play and keep the gears aligned. It's a temporary solution, but the window works fine.

The Mrs. did report to me just a few minute ago that the window I said "appeared fine" didn't close far enough to be latched. I got it latched. You just have to work the latch up and down a couple times. It closed much better than this in the morning when the sun was on it.

I have about 2o more windows whose cranks are not on them, and thus far every one I have inspected has been broken. I'm going to have to go buy a bunch more E-clips. But I have working windows in the master BR, MaxieC's room, and the eat-in kitchen spot. I think HannieC already has two working windows, but I'll have to check again. This'll cover most of the windows we'd ever need to open. Nights are nice and cool here, and so most nights when the wind is blowing so you can't smell Greeley, it's awfully nice to have them open and shut off the A/C.

Which brings me to my favorite part of tonight's story: The Magic Waterfall.

I was out in the back yard looking at the two little ponds. What got me to thinking about the ponds was that one of them was making the pump-sucking noises of needing to have water added. In that one, the water has turned fairly murky, and the other was on the verge of going south. I wondered what in the heck I was supposed to be doing for pond maintenance besides adding water every couple weeks. I knew that I was supposed to be taking chlorine and pH measurements, but I didn't have the gear for that. All the guy left me was some algaecide and some pool shock. I threw in a bunch of both.

Then I said to myself, "Self, maybe you ought to clean the filters."

So I opened up the first one and found all kinds of nifty stuff in the skimmer. Like bark, pine needles, and a disposable cleaning wipe. Then I went to the second skimmer, and I noticed that it wasn't skimming. Hmmm... I got to thinking about if I had ever seen it run or not. I wasn't sure. That pond had two of them, one at each end, and I couldn't remember if this one ever worked. But, I used my learnings from the previous waterfall problem, and I went inside and turned on all the switches that didn't seem to do anything. Still nothing.

So I set out to debug. I started following the cord back from the pump, but it was buried in the ground and I quickly wasn't able to track it. I went to the hole in the deck behind the grill (a hole which is there because a board was ripped away and broken off, but which also provides the only access to 6 electrical outlets that run the ponds, the timer that runs the LV lighting in the back, and the gas shutoff for the grill. So you kinda wonder why an access panel wasn't put there instead of a built-in bench. Oh, and the framing for the built-in bench is also all charred from being on fire in that same spot. Perhaps some heat shielding between a wooden bench and a built-in BBQ was in order?), and I started unplugging things and checking the outlets for power with my handy-dandy outlet tester. Everything had power. So I started to try to follow the wires as they went off under the deck towards the ponds, but again they all headed underground fairly quickly.

So I got to thinking again. "Self, you have no idea which of these 4 wires you should be following. Wouldn't it be smarter to work back from the pump rather than forward from these four outlets?"

"Why, Self, I believe it would be."

So I started moving rocks. From poking around before, I learned that whoever did most of the landscaping in and around the ponds liked to hide stuff behind and under rocks. Like electrical boxes will have landscape rocks piled around them, hiding them. So will flow valves. I got a general feel for where the pump cord was heading, and then I went to the next pile of rocks in that diection and started moving the larger ones.

Bam! There was the pump cord, coiled up and plugged into a yellow, outdoor extension cord. I got out my handy-dandy outlet tester, and the extension cord tested dead. I wonder what it's plugged in to?

I start pulling up the cord, which is also buried in the dirt. It heads not towards the deck, but directly away from the deck. It goes under the grass. Odd. It's heading for the little landscape patch where the pumpkin patch is. Ahh, but the pumpkin patch is in one of these little aborted ponds that sits now without a pump and collects rain water to breed West Nile mosquitos. I have two of these. I wonder if there is power over by that abandoned pond, and this is plugged in there. I go start removing rocks. I find yellow extension cord. I go a little further, I find the end of the yellow extension cord not plugged into anything. But I also find an electrical outlet box lying on the ground (just like all the others). I open it up.

Yikes! There's a wasp in there. I close it up really quickly and go get the wasp spray. Foaming wasp spray that lays down a foam coating so that the wasps can't try to fly after being hit. I hit him. And his friend. I wait a bit. I check for dead. They're dead. I had also retrieved my inductive line tester that glows when you hold it next to something with live AC voltage when I got the foaming wasp spray, and I held it next to the line feeding the outlets. It glowed. I put it into the hot hole of the outlet (the narrow slot), and it didn't glow. I figure, "Rats. The outlet is bad." It's a GFI outlet, and they go bad a lot. On a lark, I put it in the common hole (the wider slot), and it lights up. Oh. Not a bad outlet. Wired backwards. I plug in the outlet tester to make sure. Yup. Red, yellow, off. Hot and common reversed.

Easy enough to fix. I go unplug a cord from the under-deck outlet bank, and as luck would have it, it was the right one on the first try. Hot dog. I go to start unscrewing the outlet cover, and a wasp wanders out. I flip the lid over, and the whole thing is one giant paper wasp nest. How could I not have noticed that? I drench it with foaming spray. About three more wasps crawl out, dying. I wait a bit. Then I clean off all the nests and start to work.

When I get the outlet out, HannieC has arrived to observe. I do one of these:

Me, CherkyB: "Hannie, what does it say right here?"

HannieC: "Black."

Me, CherkyB: "What color is this wire?"

HannieC: "White."

Me, CherkyB: "And what does it say over here?"

HannieC: "White."

Me, CherkyB: "And what color is this wire?"

HannieC: "Black."

Me, CherkyB: "You see, Hannie, hooking up an outlet is pretty easy. It tells you where to put each wire. You just have to read it. The person who did this was too lazy to follow the directions."

I switched around the wires, re-assembled the outlet, and plugged in the yellow extension cord. The pump came right on.

Later, I was standing on the deck looking out over the ponds, and I noticed something. "Hey. There's never been a waterfall there before!" Yes, hidden beneath a pile of rocks and some overgrown vegetation was a second waterfall in the big pond. That's what this pump drove.

Wow. Now I have three waterfalls in the back yard.


Selma Fartzalot said...

Good yob! Looks very pretty!

branko said...

People screw up the GFY's all the time.

wife said...

I've weeded for about 12 days now, but am almost done. Keeping up with the weeding shouldn't be too bad now that the worst is almost over.

The Koi pond is looking less murky now that HannieC and I cleaned out most of the seaweed.

The JohnnyB said...

CherkyB - you said I should pace myself! 11 pages in this blog!

PS I think BrainkyP is one of those guys who screws up the GFY's all the time. Or did I just want to get GFY in the comment section another few times?