We’re currently experiencing that wonderful synchronicity homeowners enjoy when lots of little things start failing all at the same time, leading to repair bills and irritation.
- Aforementioned washer woes.
- The work sink in the basement backed up last week after a load of laundry and took most of the night to drain itself; we called Roto-Rooter and they sent a guy out who wanted to charge me an absurd number to snake it. Having already phoned a guy who quoted me less than half that price to do it later that afternoon, I got R-R to match that price and he cleaned it to the sewer line. This is not the first time we’ve had this problem, and I expect we’ll have to call someone else in another fifteen years.
- We’ve run the downstairs air conditioner, a monster 18,000 BTU unit, out of one of the dining room windows, for the better part of 10 years. The plug it was attached to had been original to the house until some investigation revealed it was poorly jumped from a different line—some asshat had cut insulation off a different circuit and taped two wires around it to bring power to the plug instead of adding a junction box the way they should have. We ran it this way for several years, risking certain incineration, before we found it and had an electrician fix it. Yesterday the plug decided it would quit completely, and when I put a tester on it, the readings made no sense—It indicated open neutral under no load. When I plugged in a fan. and turned it on, the tester then indicated hot-ground reverse, which is Not Good. So, we moved the AC unit into the living room and called another electrician.
- The refrigerator, which is only two years old, is struggling to keep up with the Maryland humidity. Part of that is due to the A/C being off and the upstairs windows being open for most of the morning. Part of it is because it’s been sitting in the old coat closet with the door closed, which doesn’t help ventilate it. Part of it could be because we haven’t replaced the air filter yet. This is not our first rodeo with balky refrigerators, so I tend to believe it’s something to do with the location or operator error. I took the door off the closet to see if that helped, but it looks like we’ve got to call somebody to look at it.
There’s a special evening scheduled at our pool for immunocompromised swimmers tonight, and I am sure as fuck going for a swim.
As of today, we are at 525 CDs completed, for a total of 145GB of data. The second carousel wasn’t as full as the first—maybe 300 of 400 slots were full—so the final number should be somewhere in the 6-700 range. There are a bunch I haven’t ripped, like the ones I digitized for Rob back in the day, where I’ll substitute clean copies from my discs instead. There are a few others that came from other folks that I don’t have the originals for.
I set up a table and a stove in the shady part of the backyard to brew a new batch of beer on Sunday, knowing it was going to get hot out there. The brew went smoothly, and because I was using the original stainless kettle I’d started with 15+ years ago, the batch smelled and tasted better than the last two I’d cooked in aluminum pots. This one is called Kama Citra, and it took a metric ton of hops during the boil—it smelled so good—and after it gets racked into the secondary fermenter it will get another two ounces of hops to finish.
I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I’ll have to dump the bock in the kegerator out, as I just can’t bring myself to drink it due to the taste.
The new washer in the basement is happily cranking away on our clothes. There was a frightening couple of days where it was looking like we weren’t going to get something delivered until the middle of August, but I got lucky with a Lowe’s CSR who absolutely worked the system, found me a washer available locally, and had it delivered the next day. Jen says it’s much larger than our HE front-loader and seems to be washing clothes better.
After 10+ years of faithful, if not mediocre service, our fancy HE front-loading washing machine has given up the ghost. I’m no stranger to basic appliance maintenance, but when the display starts showing strange error codes and failing to drain, and the internet tells you it’s expensive problems with the computer in the unit, it’s time to call in a professional. Jamell was super-cool and nodded his head sadly when I showed it to him; he confirmed my suspicions that we were either going to have to replace the main control board (~$500 plus labor) or the motor (~$500 plus labor). He suggested we replace the whole unit and this time go with a top-loader, as they are easier to work on, break down less, and wash clothes better. I wanted to do my part for the environment and everything but I also don’t want to stink. So we’re heading out this afternoon to the
Sears Outlet American Freight to pick up a new Kenmore and have it delivered before we run out of clean underwear. I’m going to steal the top cover before it goes, because washing machine steel makes great automotive patch paneling.
Finn and I were in Easton at Karean’s house yesterday to help move some furniture and do some house maintenance before she has her carpeting replaced with hardwood flooring; she’s got heavy and bulky furniture that would be impossible to move solo, so we got the coffee table and couch moved together. Then I fixed some stuff around the house and tried to revive Rob’s 400-disc CD changers, which both powered on and immediately made screeching noises—which leads me to believe either the motors are bad or the belts that the motors drive are bad. I threw them both in the back of the car to do some more research, and there’s a chance I can fix them if it’s just the belts, but either way I’m going to be ripping CD’s for the next couple of months so that she’s got her music available again.
Here’s the surround in place with two coats of paint (ignore the kickplates at the bottom; that’s a whole other thing) and the clock recentered.
Here’s the hole I chopped out of the wall. It looks like shit. This is before I put patches in place, replaced the plank over the gap in the floor with two boards, and trimmed the inside closet moulding.
This is the old fridge in the newer, wider hole.
And here’s the new fridge in place. I’m going to mimic the rest of the window/door moulding and mill some boards to cover the jagged edges. That should clean things right up and make the kitchen presentable again.
I asked the delivery guys to move the old fridge out into the garage, where it will sit until I can put an unswitched outlet in the front corner and relocate all of the garden tools to somewhere else. Or, more likely, I’ll pull one of the two cabinets off the back wall and stick it all the way back there.
I had a list of stuff I wanted to get accomplished over the Christmas break. Some of it was house-related stuff, some of it was school-related stuff, and some of it was stuff I just wanted to finally get to. It’s all been sidelined by the fridge crisis.
Our current, failing fridge is an upscale top-freezer model, standing 33″ wide by 65″ tall. It sits in our hallway coat closet, peeking out of a hole cut in the wall, directly under the staircase. That staircase is the problem, as the angle and position of the staircase dictates how much vertical room we’ve got to work with. Modern french-door refrigerators are generally 36″ wide by 69″ tall, varying in depth depending on the unit. The existing hole we had would not accommodate a larger fridge, which meant I would have to sneak an extra 4″ from somewhere.
I busted out the Sawzall and set about seeing how much room I could find if I enlarged the hole on the other side of the staircase. This meant I had to pull the moulding off the inside of the closet wall, gently saw through all of the lathe, trim a bunch of the remaining wall studs, and reroute the doorbell wiring (unfortunately severing one of the leads in the process). I measured and measured again, and with all the trimming I did, I think I’ve got the room to work with.
Once I knew that, we went to Lowe’s and looked at the available stock for the third time, finally settling on a 21 cubic foot Fridgidaire in stainless steel on a $850 discount from list price. They looked in back and found one available for us, and we ordered it.
Sunday I continued cleaning up the jagged hole I’d hacked away at, fitting drywall into the sections where the plaster had come off the lathe and replacing two sections of flooring with spare tongue and groove I’d stashed in the garage. Then I slapped a gallon of drywall spackle over the patches and called it good enough, because Jen is making a St. Mary’s County Stuffed Ham for Christmas dinner, and we needed to clean all of the dust up before she started cooking.
After cleaning the house, Finn and I sat down for some LEGO City on the XBOX and then knocked off a few of the backed-up advent activities: viewings of a Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph, roasting some marshmallows over the fire, and having a picnic under the tree.
Our refrigerator has decided it’s time to break down again, just a few days before Christmas and with a 25-lb. ham freshly purchased. I had to make an after-hours run to the store last night for ice, and throw all of our groceries in the coolers, and run two coolers’ worth of stuff over to Christi & Glen’s spare fridge. Meanwhile the temperatures are projected to be in the mid-40’s instead of the 20s like they were last week, which would have been perfect for storing stuff on the back porch. Merry Christmas.
We did a round-trip into Ohio over the weekend for a funeral, one of Jen’s extended family. His name was Floyd and he was a funny man, extremely nice to me when I met him, and he and his wife always sent us Christmas cards. While we were there we saw Jen’s sister Annie and her son Scott, as well as her father and the larger Ohio contingent of her mother’s family. It was a long trip out and a long trip back, my second in a month, and I don’t think I need to go to Ohio again for a while.
While that was happening, our refrigerator decided it was going to go wonky (probably in protest of the small upright freezer Jen bought and installed in the basement). Jen had emptied and defrosted it after moving a pile of stuff to the new freezer, but when we plugged it back in the temperature in the fridge section wasn’t staying cold enough. We packed up a bunch of food and brought it to our brother and sister’s spare garage fridge the night before we left; hopefully we haven’t lost three dozen eggs and two gallons of milk. On our return from Ohio the fridge was cooled properly, if not slowly, so we did some recon on the tail end of the Labor Day sales to see what’s out there.
Most of the new model fridges have things like TV screens and cooling drawers and lights that come on when you knock on the window (yes, they have windows). Most of them are bottom-freezer designs, which I like. They are larger, taller and deeper than ours because they were made for modern kitchens. Ours is a smaller traditional top-freezer design. It’s hiding out in the old hall closet under the stairs, tucked into a hole hacked in the wall. Because of the angle of the stairwell above, I’ve only got a certain amount of width and height I can work with, and the closet is only so deep. Most modern units are 70″ high by 36″ wide, and I think I can make a hole big enough to squeeze one in there. I would have liked to have the weekend to cut and trim the walls to test my theory before making a $1500 purchase, but didn’t have enough time, so we will miss out on Labor Day sales. I’m betting our fridge will probably last another couple of months, especially now that the heat and humidity has left, and we’ll look at a new one in late winter when money is more plentiful.
Meanwhile there’s a hurricane blowing in this week, and we have no idea what it will do to this area. I bought a submersible pool pump from Amazon for delivery tomorrow, and I’ll go out and shore up the defenses after work tomorrow night. I would also have liked to clean the gutters this weekend, but I guess I’ll deal with what I get when it gets here.
When I was in high school, I had several friends who were audiophiles. This was back in the days of two-wire connectors, when an amp still had a dedicated set of input jacks for a turntable. We’d spend hours discussing the merits of one brand over another, with German names competing with the latest in Japanese technology. I always favored Teutonic simplicity over bell-and-whistle laden Asian design, but my pocketbook was never able to afford anything better than third-rate Taiwanese gear. I did, however, build my own speakers, with the aid of a book from Radio Shack, several catalogs (this was pre-internet) and a trip to Canal Street in NYC to find a pair of 8-ohm woofers. I’d studied, I’d planned, I’d done the math. I had boxes of cabling, the right crimping tools, and the know-how to dive into the back of a component–featuring the complexity of a passenger jet’s flight controls–and make things work.
Somewhere in the summer of 1995, after years of crushing poverty, I’d saved up enough cash to buy myself a big-boy TV to replace the alley-sourced B/W Zenith I’d been dragging around since college. It was a 23″ color Sharp with a remote (a remote!), and it fit comfortably atop my bass amp at the foot of the bed. And it was great! It followed me from house to house and served faithfully, hooked up to all manner of AV equipment, even though it only had a coax jack for input. It saw its share of dents and cracks; a year ago or so, Finn pushed the Power button so hard that it fell backwards into the casing, prompting the creation of some plexiglas shielding. At some point in the last five years it started randomly making a high-frequency whine for no reason, but has remained the largest screen we have in the house and thus our main window to the outside world.
At my first Christmas party as a full-time employee, I was given a $100 gift card to Best Buy, and due to the limited purchasing options therein, I earmarked it for a future TV purchase. At that time the den was still a distant dream and we had a newborn to care for. Fast-forwarding two years, I had two more gift cards of equal value in hand and a big empty spot on the chimney in a finished room. Doing some research, and based on experience with computer monitors, I decided to spend on a Samsung, and looked at 32″ and 37″ offerings. I was afraid a 32″ would be too small for the space, and after measuring out a 37″ the width looked just right– about 16″ inches of clearance on either side of the chimney. I found a real nice 37″ LCD on sale and took the girls up to look it over on Monday evening. After getting one of the Best Buy floor guys to load it on a cart, I had to wade through five different upsell pitches (Blu-Ray player, extended warranty, Best Buy card, Best Buy rewards club, and Monster cable) before I could slap down all three cards and watch the balance decrease. (Points to Best Buy for not deprecating the value of two-year-old gift cards).
In the time between TV purchases, I’ve been eclipsed by several different types of technology. Component, Optical, HDMI, DVI… This new TV has an ethernet port, for christ’s sake. So now, the issue becomes: How do I get signal from the FIOS box through our amp and to the TV? Our amp is a 10-year-old Onkyo, which predates HDMI, and only passes signal through one source (meaning one must start the chain with Component and end with Component, for example). Currently, the pathway is
FIOS box -> Onkyo -> RF modulator -> TV
but I think it will have to shift to something like
FIOS box -> TV
where the TV becomes the hub for all of the components (assuming, of course, there is even a place to put the amp and speakers). I don’t have money for all new audio components, so I’m going to have to make what I have work–which means I’m going to need HDMI or Component cabling in 25″ lengths or more. My preference is to go completely digital to preserve signal quality, but we can go with component if need be (it will still support 1080p).
The first order of business is to get the stand I’ve crafted back from the welder (sometime next week, hopefully) and drill cutouts for the cabling. Then I have to cut a hole in the floor (groan) to add a plug and passthrough for cabling, and finally install the stand itself.
And, apparently I can use Serviio to connect the TV to my computer (in absence of a MacTV, which will be coming at some point in the future), so I’m going to give that a try in the meantime.
Serviio requires Java 1.6, which is not offered for OS 10.4. Because my server is running on an older G5 tower, I can’t install anything above 10.4, and thus, can’t use Serviio. Oh, well.
Finn sat on the potty, looking intently at me with her big blue eyes. She had asked to use the potty three times in a half an hour, which on one hand is awesome, but on the other hand is a little tiring for Jen and I. We knew she was working up to something but it wasn’t happening, and usually the trick in that situation—much as it is for the rest of us—is to distract her from thinking too much about things and find her inner peace.
I sat cross-legged on the floor in front of her, and tapped the YouTube icon. Doing a search for “Sesame Street” returned a list of clips I knew she’d like, and we started out with a classic Cookie Monster bit. I flipped it over, the picture re-oriented itself, and she smiled while Cookie started explaining numbers. Almost immediately, there were prodigious results, and we watched a few more clips while things sorted themselves out.
There are many excellent reasons to have one of these things beyond a potty training aid. (For the record, we prefer books). Friday night after Jen drifted off to sleep, I stayed awake streaming a Ghost In The Shell movie from Netflix until 1:30 in the morning, something that was inadvisable considering I was on baby duty early the next morning. (Review: The movie was middling to poor, but it was good enough to get me sucked in. The Netflix app has a lousy UI but streams movies very well). I’ve tagged and labeled photos, updated my Mint account, written forum posts, looked for recipes, and checked the weather. It’s so much easier to deal with for certain things than a laptop would be, even with a screen-based keyboard, and it’s much easier to carry around.
Compared to a first-gen iPhone, it’s slicker and faster than a politician at a county fair; everything is immediate and smooth. It makes my 4-year-old MacBook Pro feel like a Mac Classic. I spent two hours watching the movie with a full charge and when it was over, the battery was still at 90%. Even better: the back was cool to the touch, unlike my MBP, which gets blazing hot. The browser is fast and responsive, scrolling and redraw is immediate (unlike my iPhone), and as a pretty heavy-duty internet user, I’ve only stumbled across one or two sites with video I couldn’t watch.
I’d like to say I’m writing this post on the iPad, but because it’s owned by my company I’m keeping my personal login details off the machine. There is a WordPress app available, and many of the things I use our backup laptop for are accomplished easily on the iPad. One thing that looks a little sketchy right now is printing from the iPad, but there are some solutions available and it looks like Apple may be working on something as well. I do find myself wanting to do certain things with it that I can’t (hook up a camera and download pictures, for one) but overall I see this as a no-brainer for our near-term future. I think we will wait, however, for when they put a camera in the next generation—shortly, I’m guessing, given the advent of FaceTime.