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April column for Michiana House & Home Magazine: Monitoring the leaks

      One of these days, I will learn. Nine years ago, we moved into our new home and upon settling in, our washing machine began to leak water onto the laminate flooring. As President of this operation, I pointed the problem out to the Secretary of Home Improvement and he acknowledged that Houston, we indeed had a problem.

He proceeded to monitor the situation for the next decade.

Now, I don’t like to nag, but I am the kind of person who was born with a lot of get up and go whereas my counterpart…was not. In fact, he is a big proponent of the wait-and see-method of dealing with problems. Perhaps if we pretended not to notice the washing machine leaking, maybe it would stop doing it.

“It’s not a naughty child making a play for attention, you know,” I commented wryly.

When it became a more pressing concern a few weeks ago, he agreed it wasn’t faking and decided to take a look at it. That’s when he decided I must be overfilling it with clothes.

“You’re kidding, right?” I responded. “That washer can hold up to 12 pairs of jeans in its largest setting. It should be able handle a baseball jersey and a pair of sweatpants without its water breaking!”

“Well it only does it when it has a full load,” he offered.

I asked him if his honest solution to this problem was to divide the clothes in half and do double the laundry. Admittedly, it was a solution, but not a very practical one and considering the washing machine was a high efficiency model, it seemed like a bit of a cop out. In the end we decided to purchase a new unit.

Before it arrived though, I insisted he replace the floorboards I knew to be warped underneath the old machine. We had some extra ones that were included when the house was built. I showed him how they fit together and felt relatively confident that he could handle the repair.

I really have too much faith in that man. My floor is now a unique jigsaw puzzle of mismatched boards with wood putty filling in where there were gaps. Take my advice, if someone tells you they only had two boards, even though they needed four and “made do” by using wood putty, check their work, I beg of you. Don’t try to make sense of it, just check the work.

The other solution of course is to order additional flooring, have it installed or address the original leak before it becomes a bigger concern. Of course you might want to reconsider your relationship choices before they become a permanent part of the household “cabinet!”

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May Column for Michiana House & Home Magazine: A Space Jam

Mars

Mars

Recently, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when a sponsored Groupon advertisement caught my eye. Evidently, for the low, low price of $15, I can buy an acre of land on Mars. Now, I do not pretend to be an expert on interplanetary Real Estate deals, but I have a few questions about this.

For starters, who exactly owns Mars? It’s not that I don’t trust the oh-so-official-sounding Lunar Embassy, which is located in Nevada of all places, but how did they get to be the official Realtor of the Red Planet? Did the little guy from the Looney Tunes shorts hand over the deed to Mars in order to lay claim to Bugs Bunny’s hole? Was it some kind of a trade deal like that whole Michael Jordan thing in Space Jam? Why is he so keen to get rid of Mars in the first place? What does he know about it that we don’t?

Secondly, how did the head honcho of this Galactic Realty firm decide $15 was a fair price for Martian soil? According to the advertisement, this price represents a 57 percent discount off of the suggested retail price, which by anyone’s definition is an incredible deal, but I remain skeptical. For example, how do we know that an acre of land is the same thing on Mars as it is here? What if it is a different unit of measurement entirely? Has anyone actually seen the comps from other neighboring planets to tell us whether or not Mars actually appraised for this price and has it passed its inspection?
Exactly where are these available acres? Is the entire planet up for grabs or only a specific neighborhood? Will we be given the XY coordinates to our little corner of the universe or is Google Mars already up there taking a more modern image for us to see? I may not be a genius, but I do know location is a key factor when buying a piece of property. Does $15 get me an enviable spot in downtown metropolitan Mars, a sweet spot in suburban Mars or a remote, pre-war, pre-fab, previously uninhabited plot of Outer Mongolia Mars? I think we have a right to know. I also think we should be told what our taxes might be, what kinds of schools we can expect for that money as well as the government’s plan for a steady water supply, but hey, not everyone is as picky as I am.

I know I am probably going to kick myself for not jumping on this ground floor opportunity, but there are just too many unknowns for me to plunk down some cash on my Martian estate just yet. Although my friends tell me to stop analyzing the logistics just do it, I’m content to let other folks cough up their closing costs, invent a way to get there, fight off whatever they find and pave the way for the rest of us.

In the meantime, I am going to do something safe and have a star named after me.

 

 

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April Column Michiana House & Home: Hello, Dave

Xbox      While cleaning my house one Friday morning, I decided to pop in a movie in order to have a little background noise while I worked. I found a good flick, turned on the TV and was stumped when I realized that an Xbox One had replaced my Blu-Ray player.

I remember Boy Wonder telling me that his new gaming system played movies, but I was not prepared to try and start, stop, and pause a film using a controller that had more buttons than the old stand up Asteroids arcade game. To make matters worse, none of the joysticks or buttons were labeled with anything other than an X,Y,A,and B. I’m sorry, but I have a problem solving anything that looks remotely like an algebra equation.

By some stroke of luck, the Xbox screen appeared immediately, greeted my son by name…or whatever he likes to be called on there, and in the bottom left hand corner I saw the Blu-Ray player icon. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to select it.

At some point in this odyssey, I managed to drop the space-aged gizmo running the operation and knocked the batteries askew. When I straightened that out, the whole thing lit up like a Christmas tree, scrolled through screens I didn’t authorize and asked me if I wanted to purchase something, watch a tutorial, or play a game of Global Thermonuclear War. I swear if the thing would have called me “Dave” I would have freaked out right then and there. (If you get either of those references, you are at least as old as I am!)

Terrified I might have to suit up and go into battle just to watch Apollo 13, I began hitting buttons and maneuvering joysticks until I was able to find the original screen. I also put in a call to my oldest in hopes he would tell me what I was doing wrong.

Having grown up in an era of home computers, gaming systems and VCRs, I do not take pride in being this electronically challenged. I also have a master’s degree in education so I should be able to operate something akin to a CD player on crack without having to phone a friend.

“Oh I don’t use my controller to run my movies either,” my oldest child assured me. “I use the voice command option to tell it what to do and then it does it.”

“I am not about to start having a conversation with a piece of machinery,” I told him. “I already talk to myself as it is. This will only confirm that I am crazy.”

“You do know that you can buy a regular remote control for it for about $25 right?” He asked.

It was the best idea I had heard all day. “You mean a regular remote with normal buttons like Play, Pause and Stop?” I queried.

“Yes,” he sighed.

“Wonderful, now you know what to get me for Mother’s Day.”

“I’ll put it on my list,” he promised. “In the meantime, the ‘A’ button is your friend.”

I highly doubt that.

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Michiana house & Home Magazine: Head’s Up!

IMG_0417      There is nothing that will bring your day to a grinding halt like a case of head lice. It doesn’t matter if you are working out, cooking dinner, catching up on your e-mails or having an otherwise productive life, all activity will come to an unceremonious end the second you find some creepy-looking bug crawling around in someone’s hair.

When the College Man contracted a case of this crud during a recent school break, it’s no exaggeration to say that the house went on lockdown as if it were under attack. The beds were stripped and sheets washed in the hottest of temperatures. The mattresses and furniture were fumigated to prevent further infestation. Every surface was scoured with the most powerful concoction on the planet while the affected individual was quarantined to a barstool and told not to touch anything. (For the record, he sat there looking wide-eyed and panicked as if he might spontaneously combust at any moment.)

Over the next several hours, as I combed through the boy’s follicles to remove his little “friends” and their demon spawn, I couldn’t help wondering why we freak out as much as we do about this condition. (Keep in mind; the child has a LOT of hair so I had plenty of time to devote to this issue.) It’s not that lice isn’t a serious problem that must be dealt with immediately, but why does such a small bug illicit a reaction typically reserved for a declaration of war? We see insects doing all kinds of things all of the time, but we usually don’t flip out about it. In fact, if we spot a unique specimen in the yard, we might even call our families over to take a look at it. Lice, on the other hand, usually causes people run for the hills.

So why is it different? My guess is because bugs aren’t supposed to be there in the first place. It’s not unlike finding a mouse in the house. We understand mice exist and were created to perform several important jobs. They eat cheese. They give cats something to chase and they head up major entertainment corporations, but we don’t want to see them rooting around our kitchens. The same goes for lice. I’m perfectly fine with them being in the yard or garden, but settling a colony in my son’s hair? Not so much.

In the weeks that followed, I had a minor freak out every time my head itched and I could not pass a mirror without searching my scalp for signs of life. Although I had done everything to rid my home of these unwanted guests, the memory of their visit lingered, as did the sympathy scratches. While I am not one for using this column as a PSA, in this season of hats, scarves and other cranial coverings, consider this your heads up to be on the lookout for these creatures and to get a jump on them before they bite out a huge chunk of your day!

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March MHH Column: Mowing down my options

Grass    As a teenager, I was hardly an invaluable help around the house. Though I improved as an adult, I am ashamed to admit that I was once an inept pack rat that could barely make a bed, couldn’t do laundry or cook anything more ambitious than canned corn.

So why would I spontaneously decide to mow the grass at the age of 16?

Simple I wanted to go out that night, but my mother told me that she wanted my help with the yard work. (Read: I stood there and held the bag for the grass clippings.) I reasoned that if I mowed before she got home, she would be proud of my initiative and have no reason to keep me in for the night. It was a classic win-win situation.

I went to the shed and extracted the mower, taking care to check the gas tank prior to starting it. The dipstick read that it was full, but there was so little fuel on the metal that I thought I was reading it wrong. I squinted down the dark, narrow hole, but I couldn’t see anything so I got the gas can from the garage and began to “fill ‘er up.”

That’s when I noticed another screw cap on the other side of the engine. When I loosened it I saw that it was full of what was obviously gasoline and that I had just put fuel in the oil tank.

Now the way I saw it, I had two options. I could a.) Put it back and say nothing. It was unlikely my parents would suspect me in the first place, but they might think that someone broke in, vandalized our equipment and file a police report. Who needed that on their conscience? Or I could b.) Get it fixed before my mother came home.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that my neighbor did. He was the father of a friend and (even better) a teddy bear of a guy. I raced over to his driveway in gales of tears, threw myself on his mercy and told him what had happened.

“OK, why don’t you push it over here and I will drain the oil and get you set up before your mom gets home,” he smiled, understandingly

Thirty minutes later I was back in business and just as I suspected, my mother was so proud to see me working hard that she readily agreed to my plans for the evening. I could have gotten away with it, but a few weeks later, I confessed to what happened. My father seemed amused and after hearing my tale, he went to ask my friend’s father how much he owed him for the gas and the oil.

“No charge,” he told him. “One of these days my own daughter will end up in a mess and will need you to bail her out. We’ll call it even then.”

“Deal,” my dad told him with a handshake.

 

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MHH Column for June: Pushing My Buttons

best-universal-remote-controls-updated-970x0         Once upon a time, I used to get the biggest kick out of watching my mother try to operate anything more complicated than a can opener. When I was 12-years-old we bought our first VCR, a rudimentary model with a corded remote no bigger than my palm and buttons so clearly labeled that anyone with thumbs could operate them.

Anyone, that is, except my mother.

Unfortunately, the geniuses that designed the thing put the power button below the TV/Video button and if one made the mistake of turning these two things on from the top down rather than the bottom up, it would take all day to get them in sync. I literally laughed so hard I cried watching her rage against the machine that held The Thornbirds hostage.

I’m no longer laughing.

While I used to be able to hook up an electronic device inside of five minutes without looking at an instruction book, today I can barely retrieve my voice mail messages without hurting myself. I can’t help wondering: When did I turn into my mother?

The other night I turned on my television and was asked if I wanted to update my software or see an input list. Uh-huh…see, what I wanted was to watch a movie, not have a conversation with the TV set! I dealt with those issues and then went half crazy trying to get the movie started. Apparently my Blu-Ray player is the same brand as my ancient DVD/VCR combo and my remote control activates both. One wrong move sends the whole thing into chaos that requires three people, two calls to tech support and a battery change to straighten out.

As if that wasn’t enough, smack in the middle of the Beatles 50th Anniversary special in February, a portion of my cable system went out. I called my provider screaming about the musical legacy of Paul and Ringo while she resent signals from Asia in an effort to fix my problem. When nothing worked she suggested I watch the show on one of my HD channels and proceeded to give me a sequence of digits longer than my social security number. Since when do I have HDTV?

I have three remotes within arm’s reach that have 105 buttons between them and I can perform only five functions on them. Three claim to be “menu” buttons however, that operation is never available when I need it. There is an energy saving button that hasn’t spared me an ounce of sanity and four brightly colored buttons complete with an assortment of un-raised dots that strike me as a sick Helen Keller joke. I don’t dare dust them because the last time I did, the government shut down, the President ended the Space Shuttle program and my son missed a critical episode of Doctor Who.

Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m not taking any chances. I suspect that somewhere in the Great Beyond my mother has been put in charge of the Karma button, has mastered it and is getting me back for every time I laughed at her, one piece of equipment at a time.

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