A good worker is supposed to clean up after himself. Painters wash out their brushes. Carpenters sweep up their sawdust. And dutiful columnists are supposed to answer their mail.
I am a reluctant cleaner-upper. I enjoy debris. It is evidence that I did some work. But lately the stack of unanswered mail has been piling up.
Moreover, my correspondents have some interesting things to say. Not only do they care deeply about the filaments in light bulbs, and water in basements, they seem to know what they are talking about.
One tough bulb
From: Luke M. Feck, American Electric Power Corp., Columbus, Ohio
Re: Column questioning whether new E-Lamp light bulb could really last 14 years in a household with children.
Dear Hero: I want you to know that the E-Lamp will pass the control tower test (child's habit of switching bulb on and off as a signal to passing airplanes). The thing that causes your incandescent bulbs to self-destruct twice a month is the constant "on/off." The filament simply wears out from heating and cooling. It cracks and there is no light. The E-Lamp has no filament so it can't burn out.
When we get the bulb into production, perhaps your household could be the beta, or second, site for the Pop Tart test (kids breaking bulb as they rip through grocery sack looking for Pop Tarts) and the UFO test (bulb breaks when lamp in family room is struck by unidentified flying object.)
Taking it with you
From: Noreen Cullen, Westminster
Re: light bulb column
Dear Hero: I am the first to admit I can't think 14 years ahead, mainly because my children will then be entering college and my spouse and I will be joining the American Association of Retired Persons. But don't you think it is possible we will be taking our E-Lamps with us when we move?
Hero Responds: I am more than willing to be a beta, alpha, gamma-ramma ding dong test site for the E-Lamp. Like most parents I will do almost anything to cut down the household's weekly light bulb purchases. Secondly, I predict the E-lamp will go the route of washing machines, antiques doorknobs and nicknacks. It will become another item home buyers and sellers can haggle over at closing.
From: Sue McCann, Arnold
Re: Column stating water always wins fight to keep basement dry
Dear Hero: Your saga brought back memories. Though we have vastly improved the house we moved into in 1955, we have not sealed the basement. We too have a sump pump but have adopted the rule of leaving nothing frail or perishable on the floor.
Once our son, then living at home, undertook to rebuild an elderly motorcycle. It was hard enough stepping over all the nuts, bolts and wheels when the basement was dry, but when they were under water they seemed to wink at me as I would try to reach the clothesline. . . .
Meanwhile for the last two or three years, we have not had real flooding.
Brains vs. basements
From: Mrs. Horace F. Reynolds, Hanover, Pa.
Dear Hero: Never, never say water will win over the human brain Of course money and brawn must be included.
The real leaker (water rushing down outdoor basement steps) was solved in our present home for $276.47. That was in 1987. I am enclosing diagram (showing how a section of walkway leading to the top of the steps was elevated and drain tubes were tucked underneath the elevated slab to divert the water.) You are welcome to visit if you are still skeptical.
The secret is to scarify
From: Milton P. Sause, Baltimore
Dear Hero: What few home owners know . . . is that the water comes in where the foundation wall meets the basement concrete floor. The crack between the floor and wall should be cleared, scarified and filled with permanent caulking compound. plumber friend did the job for me and I do not have any leaking . . . except behind the heating plant, which we cannot get to. My son bought a new house and had the trouble right away so he complained to the builder who came in and did what I just described. Presto-changeo, no more leaking.
Hero Responds: I may not have the brains needed to have a dry basement. I had to look up scarify in the dictionary. It means to mark with scars.
But when I get my new E-Lamps, I'll put them in the basement and get to work. They will shed some illumination on my scarification.