Me and My Outlets

I saw this cartoon today and really felt this guy’s pain:

Working on Electrical

We recently swapped out all of the electrical outlets and switches in the house.  In the midst of doing that, the electricity in the bathroom stopped working.

I had McKeel come over with Kirby and they put their heads together to try to figure it all out.

Their digging brought up some pretty scary results:  the office and the hallway had a couple of outlets that were running on two circuits.  Essentially, they were hot with 220v.  Anything that we would have plugged into them would have been fried.   It also meant that in swapping those outlets out, we were messing around with a lot more power than we thought.

After a few feeble attempts, we all decided that it would be best if I just hired an electrician to look over the damage and try to assess the problem.

Kirby knew a guy and hooked me up with a really good group of electricians: Deiter’s & Helmer’s.   I wasn’t sure how long it would take or what kind of trouble we were in, but was pretty sure it was going to be expensive.

The guy came, assessed the situation, probed a few outlets, gave me a good tongue-lashing for trying to do things myself and then got to the bottom of the problem within about 10 minutes.  He traced the lines through the attic and down into the adjacent bedroom where the problem resided:  there was an outlet there that had been cross-wired and hadn’t had the tabs popped out to put it on separate circuits… at least, I think it was something like that.  The wiring had also been reversed in the attic and the hotwire had been switched so what we thought was white was actually black.

The bottom line:  he said that if the house burned down due to electrical fire and the insurance company investigated, they would have found that the wiring had not been done by a licensed, insured electrician and they would not reimburse me a dime.

At the end of the day, for $100 and a scolding, he straightened out my electrical, got the bathroom working and got us up to code.  He then probed and prodded around the rest of the house to make sure the readings everywhere else looked good.  It was a lot cheaper than I thought it would be and we ended up with some peace of mind knowing that the work was done right and we would be covered by insurance.

For some reason, I’m willing to hire out things like gas and water because of the potential dangers of working with those two utilities… but electrical, I feel like it’d be ok for me to do the work myself even though I really don’t know what I’m doing.  I figured if I matched up the wiring and put the same wires where I saw them on the old stuff, I’d be ok.  I didn’t know enough to check the tabs and trace the circuits first.

The insurance angle alone was enough to wise me up to the fact that this kind of work should be left to the professionals.

Insult to injury

I recently got a tax bill in the mail from the IRS. Apparently, since I run a small freelancing business, they decided to tax me heavier on the amounts I had already claimed in 2005.

Eh… I can’t really blame them. I’m sure I just didn’t read the fine print closely enough when I used the Tax software to do my taxes two years ago.

ok… I admit I owe taxes and I’m willing to pay them. Do they really have to charge me an additional 10% interest on the taxes I owe?

I’ll even concede to pay it because if someone had owed me money for 2 years, I’d appreciate a little extra for having to wait around. At least they didn’t charge me any penalties.

Here’s the thing: I do all the paperwork, fill out my check, kiss my cash goodbye (hoping my tax dollars will go directly toward something useful like development of the fuel cell or the jet fuel that will be used to bring our boys home) and am reading all of the final requirements for submitting this payment. One of them reads: Ensure that the return address shows through the window on the return-envelope.

Conveniently, they provide an envelope.

Inconveniently, they make the return address window too small and too low so that the return address doesn’t fit the way the paper is folded when they sent it to me. Now I have to try to origami it using double-angle and pie-folds to make the thing fit and show the proper info through the window in the 1.) already too small and 2.) poorly designed envelope that they insist I use. I got it to just barely fit in the window.

As it is, the mailman will probably have to hit the bottom of the envelope to make the paper bounce to the bottom so he can read the whole thing.

Not only that, the glue doesn’t stick, so I had to tape it shut.

I’d like to say, “that’s our hard-earned tax-dollars at work,” but clearly it’s not.  They really didn’t spend much on those envelopes.

“Let’s tax ’em hard, then make ’em try to stuff it all in the cheap-ass envelope we provide.”


Tax Envelope