Hey, check it out!

I have said before that I have an older brother who is to me, in terms of intelligence, as Stephen Hawking is to Little Bear. We don’t correspond much because he had the misfortune of being born the only social member of a pathologically asocial family, but after all these years he still tries. He’s by far my favorite sibling but you’d never know it by the way I stay in touch. Anyway that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Landlady came up for a week of working on her house* and brought a couple of care packages. An envelope of green rustling stuff from Tennessee Budd, and a well-wrapped box from big brother.

I’ve been getting care packages from readers for years. Some are funny, some are useful, some are well thought-out and some do the other thing. I appreciate them all. But never have I received a care package that received this much…care.
Big Brother decided that what the cabin needed was 12-volt Plan B lighting, for when there’s good reason to reduce the cabin’s amp draw by shutting down the inverter. There have certainly been such times, but I’d never in this life have gotten around to building an alternate electrical system myself. In terms of thoughtful touches, I have never received a present like this one.

A voltmeter with on/off switch, to minimize draw**.

A voltmeter with on/off switch, to minimize draw**.

He must have sent away for these, because what store stocks 12-volt CFLs for standard sockets***?

He must have sent away for these, because what store stocks 12-volt CFLs for standard sockets***?

He even thought of mounting hardware for the socket, and a box of assorted hardware to reduce the danger of procrastination - or at least the excuse for it.

He even thought of mounting hardware for the socket, and a box of assorted hardware to reduce the danger of procrastination – or at least the excuse for it.

And much more. Fuse block, fuses, at least four times as much cable as I need including connection points. This will haunt me until I get it installed.

Just two things more I need, and by wild coincidence I’m going to the big town about 50 miles away on Thursday and can hit a Lowes. I want one more socket so I can have Plan B lighting in the loft as well, and since I’ll have to run the wire outside the interior walls I want some of that flat beige conduit. I know Lowes carries it.

I’ll have to bore a couple of holes and trench for some new conduit, but already have everything I need for that. Cool!

*And so I blame her for the cold snap, but I dare not digress.

**I’d want to install the whole thing for this touch alone.

***Well, a boating store, maybe. We don’t have many of those.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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10 Responses to Hey, check it out!

  1. That’s really cool, Joel. My little sister sends me care packages several times a year and I always appreciate it so much, even when I can’t figure out what to do with some of it. They always make interesting gifts for others at the worst. We never got along all that well in person, being different as night and day, but we do love each other. I can’t account for it, but the 1500 mile separation seems to have helped bring us closer than ever. Life is strange sometimes.

  2. Claire says:

    Wow. That is way cool AND wildly useful! Good going, big bro! You have some pretty good friends and relations.

    And in all our excitement about volt meters with on-off switches, let us not forget what nice light and warmth that rustling green stuff also brings to a hermit’s life!

  3. I like the meter. Is it UL approved?

  4. Joel says:

    I have no idea. Am I breaking another law?

  5. Matt, another. says:

    Being UL approved means a private organization, Underwriters Labarotory has tested it and found it operates safely. It can also mean a manufacutrer, not from the U.S.A. put a fabricated UL tage on the item to make sure it sells. I think federal law only mandates U.L. for a few specific items so you probably havent broke another law. Try harder.

  6. Sorry ’bout that – I was just trying to be funny. It looks pretty homemade – so I’d be surprised to see a UL tag on it. As simple as it needs to be and in 12v – I doubt there’d be much use or value in a UL tag on it.

  7. Joel says:

    To be truthful, I misunderstood the question. I thought you were talking about the display he installed in the box, not the box itself which is clearly home-made.

    My brother once had a faulty starter solenoid in his car, preventing his starter drive from engaging with the flywheel ring gear. Rather than replace it, which is the only thing that would have occurred to ex-mechanic Joel, he made a black box that charged a big capacitor from the battery and then discharged it across the solenoid circuit when he triggered the starter. And it worked. Whipping up black boxes is something he does as casually as I butter toast – he probably made this one out of things he had lying around the living room.

  8. jc2k says:

    I worked with a guy who had been a UL tech – he said they take a lot of bribes.

  9. I wind up doing a lot of repairs, fabrications, and maintenance on the things that keep a fairly sufficient place running – so I have an appreciation for people who can do things as you describe with your brother. Still a hack myself – but I get more experienced every day!

    Earlier I’d first thought to joke about ‘where was the Heathkit label’ – but I thought that might be too obscure.

  10. Tennessee Budd says:

    That’s really cool, Joel!
    I’m an electronics tech by training & education. That was a really nice thing to do. He could’ve put that time & attention into something like knitting sweaters for the chickens; instead, he did something thoughtful & useful.
    With a 0.1-resolution display, you might check it against known-good voltmeters before installation, so if it’s off by 1 or 2 points, you can compensate (unless the meter has an offset adjutment). Sorry–it’s the calibration tech in me.

To the stake with the heretic!