I replaced an outlet with a GFCI and my light switch quit working

I once had an electrical outlet with a light switch next to it, in a bathroom. When I replaced the outlet with a GFCI, the light switch quit working.

When you have a GFCI and a light switch is involved, you have to wire things a bit differently so it all works.

Here’s how I fixed it, using a length of wire (use black, or if you only have white wire, put some electrical tape on it) and a wire nut.

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My second 1935 Goudey: Grimes, Klein, and Cuyler

Sometime around the sixth grade I realized that prices on modern cards were very volatile. If a star player had a bad month, his card prices were likely to suffer, while a good month or good season could send prices skyward. I have few regrets in life, but I do wish I’d sold or traded off my Jose Canseco rookie cards when their book value was $300. I could buy several today for $5 or $6 if I wanted more. (I’ll pass.)

That’s about what I paid for my second 1935 Goudey card, which featured not one but three Hall of Famers in Chicago Cubs uniforms: Burleigh Grimes, Chuck Klein, and Kiki Cuyler, along with Woody English. And when I bought that card in the late 1980s, I knew none of them were going to have a bad year the next year.

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My first 1935 Goudey card: Joe Vosmik

Dad and I were at the late, lamented World of Baseball Cards on Lemay Ferry Road in south St. Louis County sometime in the late 1980s, flipping through vintage cards. Among the old cards in the pile was a 1935 Goudey 4-in-1 featuring Cleveland Indians players. The most noteworthy was Joe Vosmik, an All-Star left fielder who batted .348 that year.

I was debating whether to buy the card or not when Dad glanced over. “Get that one,” he said. “My dad knew Joe Vosmik.”

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Why accordion-style flexible drain pipe is against code

flexible drain pipe
An example of a flexible coupling

From time to time I see accordion-style flexible drain pipe (also sometimes called flexible waste pipe) in use, much like the one on the right. St. Louis County inspectors take an exceptionally dim view of these, and I always wondered what the big deal was, since literally every hardware and home-improvement store in St. Louis County sells them. Why would they sell something if it isn’t okay to use it? Read more

The Ferguson race riots: An outsider’s perspective from not far outside

A Ferguson police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man, on August 9, 2014. The night after, riots broke out.

Ferguson is an inner-ring suburb in north St. Louis County. As such, Ferguson is now approximately 67% African-American, although the power structure remains mostly white.

I am a native of Kansas City who has lived in suburban St. Louis for a little more than 20 years. As a quasi-outsider, St. Louis has some quirks that I recognize and understand. It helps to understand that St. Louis is very divided, both along the lines of race but also along the lines of class. One of the first questions many St. Louisans will ask you is what high school you went to. This conveniently tells people how much money you grew up with. If you went to a private school, you’re good. If you went to a public school in an affluent area, you’re good. If you went to a public school in a poor area, I hope you’re living in a more affluent area now because there are people who will look down on you.

Sometimes the lines are fuzzy but sometimes they’re very stark. In north St. Louis, there’s an east-west street called Delmar. On the south side of the street are expensive houses. I won’t say they’re all millionaires on that side of the street, but many undoubtedly are. On the north side of the street, the houses that aren’t vacant are occupied by people who have minimum-wage jobs. The haves and have-nots can stare at each other from their windows, separated by five lanes of traffic. This oddity has even caught the attention of the BBC.

Ferguson is a step up from the wrong side of Delmar, but many St. Louisans would have jumped to conclusions about Michael Brown and his Normandy High School diploma for the rest of his life, regardless of how long that might have been. Read more

I am not in jail.

The bank vice president apologized for calling the police on me.

That’s neither the beginning nor the end of the story, but it seems to me that police involvement of any kind is a sign that your real estate deal isn’t going as well as it could.

It all began with a Citibank loan officer named Aaron who promised me a smooth closing. In my view, being questioned by a uniformed police officer has no place in a smooth closing. And that wasn’t even the worst part of it, which troubles me.  Read more

How I fixed an Americana (GE) anti-tip bracket that didn’t work

I’m fixing up a house that has an Americana (a GE budget brand) gas range in it. One of the last things I did before getting the St. Louis County inspection was to check to see if it had an anti-tip bracket installed. It did, so I didn’t worry about it. The house failed inspection based on two things, basically–a dead battery in the smoke detector downstairs (funny, I installed that about two months ago), and the anti-tip bracket.

The bracket that came with this range is a little different. Rather than grab the leg like most anti-tip brackets, this one grabs a hook on the back of the stove. The problem with mine was that the bracket couldn’t reach the hook on the back of the stove. The gas line comes through the floor about an inch from the wall, so the stove can’t sit close enough to the wall for the bracket to catch. Further investigation revealed that even if the bracket could have reached, it wouldn’t have done much since it was only screwed into drywall. The stove’s weight would have pulled it straight out.

But the remedy was simple and only involved a two-foot scrap of 2×4.

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Check your smoke detectors, please. And make sure you have more than one.

Early Monday morning, a fire broke out a couple of streets over from me. Sadly, there was one casualty, a seven-year-old second grader who attends the same school as my oldest son. His older sister heroically came and got him and tried to lead him out the front door, but they became separated and he lost his way.

The paper noted that there have been a large number of fires with fatalities in my area in this past year. It did not speculate on the reasons, but I think I know why.

I think inadequate smoke detectors have a lot to do with it. Read more

Remembering Rossino’s

I thought of Rossino’s, a hideaway Italian restaurant in St. Louis’ Central West End the other day. And then today, I saw the obituary for Nina Lee Russo, one of the owners of the secluded yet popular restaurant.

The obituary mentioned the restaurant closed in 2006, when the second generation wanted to retire. But the obituary mentioned some other facts that explained a few things. Read more

Oh well, whatever, nevermind. 20 years later

Rob O’Hara beat me to the punch with his excellent analysis of Nirvana’s seminal Nevermind, and I find myself not disagreeing with a word of it. So rather than duplicate his work, I’ll talk about how I came to learn of Nevermind and its reception in St. Louis.

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