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Whirly Birds and Wherethehells

Move to a new house in a new state. Keep your stomach lining intact.

Dare ya.

Ok. Barely a day after we got here, I was putting stuff away in one of the 10-foot-high walk-in closets, lined on both sides with the best infrastructure that Closet Factory can offer, all the way up to the (distant) ceiling. Alluva sudden:


I looked up. Took another direct hit on my forehead. The ceiling was leaking. WTF? The leaks were right next to one of our two heat/AC air handlers in the attic. As we later found out, there was a bad PVC pipe joint in the condensate drain line. By chance I had discovered the leak early: While I watched, three more drip spots appeared on the ceiling wallboard. This was on Saturday afternoon; I tried to contact the home warranty people, and was told by their answerobot to call back on Monday.

Screw that. It was 112 outside. We called a local firm that does service calls on Sunday and hoped that they would arrive before the closet ceiling caved in. They did. They found the bad glue-job in the drain line and fixed it. Now we have to get the ceiling wallboard replaced. Home warranties? Don’t get me started.

Oh. And birds. Last December we took delivery on an expensive patio table-and-chairs set, which spent the several months that we were in Colorado on the patio under the patio’s pair of ceiling fans. Well, without either dogs or humans to disturb them, the local birds took a shine to sitting on the fan blades, comfortably out of direct sun. Sitting, and something else that rhymes with it, in quantity.

Fortunately, the water pressure here is quite high, and our pressure nozzle got everything clean again. But…yukkh!

Carol came up with a solution: Turn on the fans to their lowest possible speed, which is about how fast ceiling fans turn in bad movies set in the African desert. We’ve watched some of the local birdies trying to land on the blades. They hover for a moment, confused, and then go elsewhere in a hurry. If I haven’t told you lately, I married a brilliant woman.

A few days later, I was carting a large and heavy plastic bin of recyclables out to the can. I stumbled, and hit my head on one of the light fixtures to either side of the garage door. No damage to my skull, but the light fixture’s pot-metal casting cracked off from its mount, and is still there swinging from its wires. The fixtures haven’t been available for probably ten years. So do we replace all eleven outside light fixtures with new ones? Or do we quietly swap in one of the fixtures from the hot tub courtyard?


We have close to a quarter acre of quarter-minus pea-gravel. It has dawned on us that sun-baked dog poop is precisely the color of quarter-minus pea-gravel.

My new workshop is so small that there isn’t room to swing a ten-foot length of 1/2″ conduit. Don’t ask me how I know. I’ll be cleaning up the mess for some time.

I have misplaced my entire box of hookup wire. There will be no hooking up until I unearth it.

Having consolidated several toolboxes and bags, I realize that I own nine pairs of dykes, and three spring-loaded wire strippers. This sounds more interesting than it is.

The rat’s tangle of cables in a panel at the far rear wall of my walk-in closet includes four Cat 5 runs that vanish into the ceiling. There are exactly three RJ45 jacks in this house. So where does that fourth cable go? Is it flapping around loose in the walls? Or was it mistakenly wired into an RJ11 landline phone jack? (We don’t have a landline phone and don’t intend to get one.) I’d start removing RJ11 wall plates, except that it would rip up the paint on the plate edges. There is probably a gizmo that can tell me where that fourth Cat 5 is hiding. If you know what it is, please send me a link. I could probably lash something up, but there’s too much else to do.

And…finally…the wherethehells. The boxes are mostly gone, and in their place are piles of wherethehells. A “wherethehell” is something that you don’t want to get rid of, but have no idea where the hell it should go. Wherethehells breed freely in houses without basements. I still have several decks of punch cards from the FORTRAN course I took in high school in early 1970. Wherethehell should they go? What about my last remaining 8-track tape? My two photo tripods? The bundle of 4′ long Lionel track sections? My Lunar globe? We brought a great deal of stuff here in plastic bins. They’re now empty. What do we do with the bins?

The pool has largely kept us sane. Alas, when I jump into the pool, Aero panics and tries to hide on the other side of the house.

There is a second meaning to the command, “Don’t move.” It’s not in any dictionary I have (and I have more dictionaries than dykes) but trust me, I now know what it is.


  1. Rick Widmer says:

    > There is probably a gizmo that can tell me where that fourth Cat 5 is hiding. If you know what it is, please send me a link.

    Do you have a tone generator and inductive pickup?

    Connect the black wire from the tone generator to ground, and the red lead to all 8 conductors of the cat-5. You should be able to trace the cat 5 from several feet away. The detection range is MUCH larger than if you clip both leads on a single pair of the cable.

      1. Looks like there’s no shortage of options. I have several signal generators capable of putting a sine or square wave on a cable. I’ll have to research the detector a little further.

    1. That unit reviews well, but I’m still mulling whether I want to find that cable $75 badly, given that I have good Wi-Fi here and one of the three known Cat 5 cables come out in my office. (Carol, alas, doesn’t have one of the other two.)

      At some point I will probably be irritated enough to either buy or build something like that. Generating the tone isn’t difficult. Detecting it through wallboard is trickier. We’ll see how it goes.

  2. Dennis M Harris says:

    I’m dyin’

    Gales of rueful laughter, particularly as I carefully probe my scalp lacerations and survey the assortment of moving boxes, rubbermaid containers and coffin shaped containers (long story…) that surround me.

    Waking up with night sweats contemplating the looming storage space reduction from a three to two car garage and the loss of a concrete floored crawlspace measureless to man.

    “Don’t move”, indeed. I’m not stirring again till I’m comfortably established in a tasteful urn.

    Be strong, my brother.

  3. Larry Nelson says:

    On pea gravel and poop:
    1. A friend trained his pups to lead him to their latest back yard deposit so that he could scoop it up. Yes, this friend has a pea gravel back yard.
    2. An even smarter friend trained his pup to leave deposits in only a 4’x6′ section of the back yard.
    3. Nothing smart at out house, our dog just goes anywhere she dang well pleases.

  4. gnealhou says:

    We use shiny mylar pinwheels from the dollar store to repel the birds. The motion and reflection tend to scare them off. You’ll need to replace them once or twice a year, but they did a good job keeping the grackles and blackbirds away from our patio furniture.

  5. Just another Wherethehell, a more technical one this time: your realtor has not uploaded the house details to Since this aggregates all houses for sale in an area (we use it a lot in our searches), you’re missing out on some free advertising, essentially.

    Cheers, Julian

    1. Zillow has its weirdnesses. I actually copied MLS data into Zillow myself, but it wouldn’t let me give the house a price! That’s a conversation I still have to have with the Realtor. Zillow originally thought the house had a pool, and even though I unchecked the Pool box, the check mark kept coming back. A quick check just now shows no pool, but I wouldn’t count on that being true tomorrow.

      1. TRX says:

        Just for grins I looked my house up on Zillow once. They had a street shot on the order of 25 years old, and an estimated value of more than three times our last appraisal.

  6. wrm says:

    On the pot metal light fitting — two part epoxy is your friend. Use sparingly.

  7. This had me ROFLMAO! I was not laughing at your misfortune so much as the BTDT aspects of your story.

    I was thinking maybe some JB Weld might help with the damaged fixture. You could still move it to the back out of (plain) sight.

    Thanks for the laughs… I have a storage unit full of wherethehells to deal with.

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