home economics

Not sure if you were playing along, but last Thursday I decided to make a bit of a guessing game over on L.A. Metblogs out a half-gallon glass jug full of coins collected over the years that I’d decided to take to the nearest Coinstar kiosk this weekend.

With readers’ answers ranging from $12 – $163.11, Susan and I drove the treasure trove over to its destiny Sunday afternoon, which revealed the final tally to be $87.84 in the form of 2,262 coins in the following denominations:

  • 1 Susan B. Anthony dollar
  • 1 half-dollar
  • 106 quarters
  • 290 dimes
  • 305 nickels
  • 1,559 pennies

Five coins were rightfully rejected, including three from Mexico totaling 650 centavos, and one MTA bus token ($1.25 value, FTW!). Lastly was this badly beat-up and scarred fellow:


This unfortunate coin was the sole member of its large tribe that Coinstar threw back despite repeated submissions. Oh well, one’s rejected cent is another’s lucky penny.

If you’re scratching your head wondering what/where the hell “War Drobe” and “Spar Oom” are than you need to book passage for your inner child on the good ship C.S. Lewis and get yourself over to Narnia, as mythical a land to us as ours is to the misinterpreting fauns who inhabit it.

I merely reference such fantastical places as lead-in to an entirely unimaginative post about our “Spar Oom” whose cracked plaster and old paint was left untouched to budget issues with our big upstairs renovation project last year, and since then kept off-limits to little more than the briefest glimpses of visitors. During those times of traveling, we didn’t even demand that our pet sitter sleep in there.

But then at the end  last month our go-to guy, Jesus, who supervised last year’s work, came to Susan to see if we might have any jobs for him, and Susan figured it was the right time to bring him and his crew in to remedy a couple situations left unfinished from last year as well as to plaster/paint the second bedroom into long-overdue shape.

He started January 4 and finished yesterday, and Susan and I couldn’t be more thrilled to finally have the spare space in a condition cosmetically enhanced enough that allows us show it off instead of shut if from view.

The pixelated thumbnails below are from a small Flickr photoset here.


Haiti’s got me dwelling and waking up. The quake, it’s terrifying devastation and its chaotic aftermath have all served  to show me how ill-equipped our household is and will be when an epic disaster strikes Los Angeles.

When. Not if.

Sure, we’ve got emergency food/supply backpacks in each of our cars. Plus there’s an emergency container in the backyard. We’ve got sturdy shoes and flashlights and a transistor radio and spare batteries and about five gallons of drinking water. But we are so seriously lacking in other essential aspects and a comprehensive emergency plan that for the first time in my life as an L.A. native who’s been through every temblor since the 1971 Sylmar quake, I am just now finally recognizing how such an abject lack of planning and preparation can make a bad situation worse and a catastrophic situation potentially devastating.

So now it’s time to go full-stop and reverse that trend. It’s time to quit allowing all that negative potential the opportunity to be realized, and instead go about covering all the bases as best I can. Not so much for any peace of mind beforehand, but for the chance at a better ability to cope and survive in the inevitable nightmarish aftermath.

UPDATED (01.17): On this the 16th anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake, I secured our first bookcase — the one that stands inside the front entrance. My original intent was simply to dust it and its contents for the first time in waaaaay too long, but in the course of doing that I realized attaching it to the wall to be a simple matter of driving three long screws through a crosspiece supporting one of its shelves into the plaster behind it. Voila! One down, maaaaany more to go.

For as long as I’ve known Susan she’s had a wonderfully oversized classic London Market  clock hanging on the dining room wall, but for the past year or so it’s becoming increasingly inconsistent in its time-keeping capabilities, finally quitting for good in November.

Thinking it was done for, I went ahead and got her a new clock for Christmas, only afterward investigating to see if a replacement movement was available for the old one.

Turns out it was, and it and when it arrived this past week I managed to install it without breaking anything. But since she liked the new dining room clock where it was the question became: where to put the old one?

And the answer to both of us was obvious; the stairway:

IMG_7037 IMG_7039

I have no patience with holiday lights. Especially the kind that are fully functioning when I take them down January 1 only to find them fouled up after 11.5 months of doing nothing but sitting in the basement. When I haul them out If they work, great! But if all or part of a string is dark? I don’t mess around checking bulbs and crap: out they go.

And so it was this year with all of last years lights. Every single string had either all or some of it burned out. Grrrrr. So while at Costco last week I decided to pay a little bit more in the short term to go a little itty bit greener in the long term by getting some energy-effecicient LED icicle lights. They were comparitively pricey — even for Costco. Let’s hope they’re also a bit more able to withstand the next 11.5 months of doing nothing, so I’m not recycling them gruffly this time next year.

And in the meantime I give you what they look like all put up and fully functioning:


For our first four Christmases together, we were content just to run lights along the rain gutter and the bannister up the front steps, with a wreath hanging from the railing by the front door over our family of illuminated animated deer (of which the baby’s lights were all burned out but miraculously came on Friday). Last year was our first time adding lights to the upstairs dormer, and it’s a good thing I’m not afraid of heights, because awkwardly dangling over the edge is involved. This year since I had a couple extra strings, I added them to the garage as well, but that just involved a slightly rickety ladder.

Merry Christmas!

When Susan discovered that upgrading to a TiVo HD DVR would be worthless since the thing ridiculously doesn’t work with satellite service, we decided to go with DirecTV’s equivalent, and since it seemed just a matter of swapping out the DTV HD Receiver for the new one I selected the self-install option rather than schedule a service call.

So the new box arrives Thursday night and being eager to get the HD DVR party started I install it only to encounter a roadblock and then find out during a call to customer service that there needs to be two cables going from the multiswitch between the dish to the box — which was a showstopper because the HD receiver only had one and the self-install page of the DTV website made no mention of that little additional cable being required.

So all I could do was schedule an install visit and of course the earliest available was Monday, which I set up — and was going to cost me $49, dammit! To string a freakin’ cable. So all day yesterday that festered and thus on the way home last night I stopped at a Target, bought myself a 100 feet of coaxial cable for $21, and this morning ran it from the multiswitch down the side of the house and underneath it,  then up through the livingroom floor and into the back of the HD DVR receiver.

The next thing my badassness did after admiring my self-install success was save myself the $49 (or at least the $49 minus the $21 I spent on the cable) — not to mention the time off work  spent waiting for the guy to show up and complete the job Monday — by calling and canceling that service visit because I’m Capt. DIY!


The floor-level outlet that has provided the power to our entertainment unit has long needed upgrading. It’s old two-pronger (as evidenced by  the interesting decorative detail around the plugs, as shown above) that has been an overloaded trooper in steadily supplying the needed juice through an eight-outlet powerstrip to all our audio/visual stuff. But it wasn’t until I was back there this weekend trying to make heads and tails of the massive tangle of cables and cords coming and going from the stereo, Playstation, VCR, TV, turntable, DVD, speakers, TiVo and satellite receiver  in order to get the DVD player and TiVo working with the TV and the TiVo working with our new DirecTV receiver that I found out how old when I opted to replace it for a more modern three-prong plug — and one without a metal faceplate.

After removing it, I looked on the back and found a series of patent numbers listed, the first being the top one in this pic:


Using Google to put the pieces together I eventually found a series of websites that told me this particular outlet had been in service in the house going back as long ago as 94 years, maybe a year or two less. One can only imagine the variety of things it powered over all those years.

U.S. Patent No. 1, 146,938 for an Attachment Plug Receptacle was applied for by inventor Harvey Hubbell on July 23, 1914 and approved July 20, 1915.  Hubbell’s most famous creations were the pull chain electrical socket and his original 1904 plug, which eliminated the need to hardwire devices directly to their power source. This plug adapted any of the past attachment plugs to now standard or knife blade plugs common to that era.

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