Looking for information on how to defrost the IH fridge, I stumbled on a YouTube channel run by a guy who does restorations on old appliances and other antique stuff: Vintage 55 Restorations has a bunch of interesting topics to browse through.
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.
We have a new dryer cooling its heels (or, warming our socks) in the basement as of 8:45 this morning, courtesy of Sears. The old Kenmore unit got hauled away, which means the last of our legacy appliances is now gone, and hopefully this one will last longer than the GE washer we bought at Sam’s Club when we first moved in.
There are a few things to look out for when trying to identify the approximate age of an appliance. Unfortunate color palettes, faux woodgrain, ancient, outdated couplings, ungrounded, fabric-wrapped wiring, and cast iron are all usually pretty good indicators of impending failure and borrowed time. I’ve got another one to add to the list: anything that proudly trumpets “Solid State” across the front faceplate. Like our dryer, for example. “Solid state” usually means transistors; the new big thing back in, oh, 1970 or so. It makes me wonder if they actually used vacuum tubes in all the models previous to that era? We knew the dryer had one foot in the grave the minute we looked at the house; we knew that every day it continued to dry our socks and not explode into a lint-fueled inferno was another gift from the heavens. I guess it kind of makes sense, then, that only a month or so after our hot water heater blew up, the heating element in the dryer would finally give out. So I’ve got to do some quick research and score us a dryer in the next three days so we can get our clothes washed before hitting the road for Easter.
I hit some consignment stores a week ago or so and scored a bouncy seat for Finn, who should probably be practicing her balance a bit more.
The range we bought was different from the one we originally chose, for several reasons. We thought the Kenmore 79363 was dual-fuel (electric oven, gas range) like the one in the store, but they offer a gas-only model as well. This range has five different burners, a cooktop that makes it easy to move pots around, and several different burner sizes for simmering, hardcore cooking, and regular heating. It came with a cast-iron grilling rack that reverses to a frying surface, something we haven’t played with yet. The difference between electric elements is huge—water boils much quicker, and the heat it puts off is immediate.
The oven has a convection option, soething that came in handy for browning the turkey on Thanksgiving. It’s 5 cubic feet of space, which means we were able to fit a 20 lb. bird and two casserole dishes of stuffing in at the same time. The user’s manual is huge, and there are several features we haven’t figured out yet. It also features a warming drawer on the bottom, which we tried using for the rolls on Thanksgiving.
Overall, I’d say we’re thrilled with the range. It’s everything we wanted without a $3,000 “Viking” badge stamped on the front.
The fridge was the one appliance we didn’t change our minds on. We bought the Kenmore 76233 21.7 model in stainless steel. Consumer Reports gave it a good review, and it has a stellar EnergyStar rating, so I was sold. It’s been very good so far. The freezer is ice-cold (it doesn’t play around, be warned) and the fridge is absolutely huge—two gallons of milk fit comfortably in the door, something I’ve never seen before. There’s a built-in water dispenser on the left side, and the filter produces cold, fresh water that tastes pure. However, because it’s set up with the thin plastic water hose used for most ice-cube makers, the water comes out slow, which means the door is open for a long time. Consider the next higher model with the dispenser built in on the outside, or another model with a true water dispenser.
Other than that small quibble, there’s nothing else to complain about. It’s quiet, huge, and worlds better than our old fridge.
So we went with the Kenmore 16279, in black. (The other model we’d picked out was unavailable.) So far, it’s working well; we’ve found that there are problems with spotting and haze on the glasses, and had to increase the water softener setting higher from the factory default to prevent etching. As with any appliance, we’re still learning its peculiarities, but overall, we like it. We’re also going to stick with the black front—after being told we could order a custom cabinet front mount, I called Kenmore and couldn’t get anyone on the phone to find the part. So be warned, folks-the Sears salesmen will advise you to go through Kenmore directly to save money, but Kenmore might not be able to help you.
If you have children, I’d recommend this one. The controls are on the top, which hides them under the granite of the countertop, away from little fingers. It has several different washing options (Turbo Wash being one of them) and when it’s operating, it’s very quiet.
After finishing most of the touch-up work in the kitchen, this weekend I moved out into the dining room. (Some history: the dining room has been unfinished since our first year in this house. We scraped wallpaper and pulled the lousy paneling off the walls before the wedding, pulled the carpeting up the night before our first Fourth of July party, and painted last fall. It’s been in stasis ever since.)
The strange hole in the front corner has been filled. There are two new baseboards installed and finished with cap molding, waiting for a fresh coat of paint. The other two will get new molding and a sanding before being painted—it’s hard to get a 17′ length of wood without having it specially cut—and the remaining nicks and dings in the wall are getting smoothed out.
I’m leaving the window as it is for a while, until we can afford a replacement—getting something architecturally accurate with modern construction is going to cost big bucks. Until then, we’ll cover over the holes with curtains and I’ll tack in the replacement molding.
Also, I covered the nasty paneling out on the front porch with three(!) coats of white Kilz to try and brighten the light coming in the front of the house. Years of nicotine have already burned through the paint and stained it brown.
With these two rooms done (or close to done), we’ll have three rooms on the ground floor completed, and we’ll be able to focus on the living room.