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December 24, 2011

Take my advice, I'm not using it


The headline is my favorite iteration of "Do as I say, not as I do."

A few minutes ago I finally tackled a task I'd been putting off since Monday night, when a 200-watt incandescent light bulb exploded in the ceiling fixture  above one of my favorite reading spots, startling me and showering me with glass confetti as the room went dark.

I'm always uneasy playing with things electrical, perhaps part of the reason I've survived this long.

Under Gray Cat's baleful gaze, I got out my ladder (metal as opposed to the wooden one upstairs — #1 in a series of not taking my advice), went down to the basement and procured regular pliers, needlenose pliers, cotton gloves — not rubber, #2 in my series — and a screwdriver.

Then I interrupted the circuit breakers for the room and its nearby outlets, just in case the original electrician who wired the house in 1967 when it was built had thrown in a surprise.

I then proceeded up the ladder, where I held the spherical rice paper shade flat up against the ceiling with one hand while prying apart the socket remnants with the other (#3: not having a helper to hold the shade so I could use both hands. Said individual might also be useful for calling 911 if I'd electrocuted myself).

I worked without eye protection (#4), which was present in the form of my reading glasses right next to the ladder, and shards of glass and bits of sharp metal dropped onto my face and the floor as I dug away at the fixture.

It came away easily enough, I screwed in a new bulb (200 watts again — #5 — though I've already had one fire after a 250 watt bulb shorted out in that same socket about 20 years ago and now this second event), and it was bright as sunshine.

That concludes today's homily.

Constant readers will recall a previous post touching, however obliquely, on this subject.

December 24, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Thank you, Nathan, for refreshing my memory re: the FAILed potato technique alluded to earlier this year.

I must confess that I thought that post appeared years – not a mere five months — ago.

Wait a minute... what's that music I'm hearing?

It goes something like this:

"Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future."

Hear it done right: http://youtu.be/Wb9By-lODgk

Posted by: bookofjoe | Dec 26, 2011 3:25:44 PM

Alex -

The potato idea was neatly debunked earlier this year.

Failing to use the device linked in the above post is yet another of the pieces of his own advice Joe has blithely ignored over the years.

Perhaps that's why we keep coming back?

Posted by: Nathan | Dec 26, 2011 2:55:16 PM

are you sure that paper lantern can handle a 200 watt heater?

Posted by: marshall | Dec 25, 2011 9:54:03 AM

hmm - i wonder about this - an anesthesiologist with a death wish

Posted by: alan | Dec 24, 2011 9:17:40 PM

I cannot *believe* this was not a JoeTV after-school special. Next time, video please!!

Posted by: Tara | Dec 24, 2011 7:05:18 PM

200 Watts! Invest 50 bucks in a good LED bulb. It will pay for itself in two years and you won't have to get on that ladder for 20 years.

Posted by: Lloyd Alter | Dec 24, 2011 3:31:10 PM

Hey, you forgot to make a puddle of water to stand on.

Next time cut a potato in half and shove the cut end into the socket. This captures the shards and lets you safely unscrew the remnants. Then replace the old incandescent with a CFL or LED. Your eyes will thank you.

Posted by: Alex | Dec 24, 2011 2:55:20 PM


You need a wine cork. Shove the cork into the broken fixture (while wearing gloves) then unscrew the remaining threaded base using the cork.

Sometimes a broom handle will serve the same function (wooden handle, please).

Feel free to call, text or write for electrical assistance. I long ago became comfortable with working with high voltage and high current equipment. One bit of advice - keep one hand away from the fixture (my old radio mentor, Alan Green, always said to keep your left hand in your pocket) so as not to provide a path across the chest for the current if you do get shocked.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Dec 24, 2011 2:52:14 PM

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