Do Your Homework

“Seventy percent of all archeology is done in the library… research, reading” – Indiana Jones Indiana Jones is more action-hero than pedantic professor, but moviegoers do get glimpses of Indiana’s academic drudgery, mostly as a comic contrast. In part, these hints to Indiana Jones the bookworm serve to help the audience understand how the fedora […]

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Marauding Mold

  It won’t be too much longer before Halloween will arrive and drive many of us to the front porch with a brimming bowl of candy, wondering if dolling out Reese Cups to small children makes us enablers. Personally, I remind myself that most grocery stores have had Halloween candy out since mid-August, and that […]

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The Scourge of the Shenandoah: Understanding Radon Gas

Florida and the Gulf Coast have hurricanes. The Midwest has tornadoes. California has wildfires and earthquakes. The Shenandoah Valley has radon. Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and earthquakes, radon is never going to grab headlines. Though a dangerous natural phenomenon – it is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind only smoking – there’s nothing […]

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“So, is the house up to code?”

The Question: In my experience, the question gets asked somewhere around the end of an inspection. The buyer, carefully and quietly with full eye contact, will ask: “So, is the house up to code?” There it is. The fulcrum, the keystone, the linchpin. The seriousness is real and the anxiousness palpable. Emotions simmer below the […]

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Bond, Pipe Bond

When Ian Fleming named his famous MI6 agent, he wanted the name to be as mundane and forgettable as possible. James Bond’s namesake was an American ornithologist, a book of whose Fleming happened to have at the house in the Caribbean where he wrote. In his own words, Fleming wanted, “Bond to be an extremely […]

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The P-Trap Predicament

A few weeks ago the p-trap under the sink in the master bathroom of the big grey house sprang a leak. Periodic plumbing mishaps are a predictable part of the restoration process. Fixtures and appliances that have been out of service for a while often work just after being revived, but then fail or quit […]

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Firedrops

“With one’s face in the wind, you were almost burned with a shower of firedrops. We staid till, it being darkish, we saw the fire as only one entire arch of fire from this to the other side [of] the bridge, and in a bow up the hill for an arch of above a mile […]

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Understanding M Homes

“I really love the internet. They say chat-rooms are the trailer parks of the internet […]” – Carrie Fisher   Whether it is fair or not, mobile homes and trailer parks are objects of derision and mockery. More than one comedian has made a career out of trailer park based humor. After all, if a […]

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Don’t Settle on a Wet Basement

I’m willing to bet that most of your associations with settlement aren’t that great: settling a disagreement, settling for second place, and settling down is, for 20-somethings still on their parents’ insurance plans, something only slightly more appealing than prison. The verb to settle, in fact, comes from the same root as the verb to […]

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Pipe Problems

“It’s a lead pipe lock” What on earth does this saying mean anyway? It is, of course, a common idiom for something that is assured. It seems to me that it comes up most often in the context of sports prognostication. On a radio show out of Washington just the other day, the commentator said, […]

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