If you give a Mouse a cookie (Electrolux style)

If you give a mouse a cookie, they’ll get crumbs and chocolate all over their clothes. When they get crumbs and chocolate all over their clothes, the laundry piles up.  When the laundry piles up, you will need to use the Electrolux front-loading washing machine.

When you do several years-worth of laundry in the Electrolux front-loading washing machine, you’ll eventually discover it was leaking all over the floor.    And you’ll call a repair person.  And then another.  And another.  And another.  And another.  And another.  Four will tell you Electrolux front-loading washing machines are “bad news” and decline to fix them.  The fifth will tell you he’s on injury leave (we wish him a speedy recovery), and the sixth will say he will fix it, but the earliest appointment is in two weeks.

When the sixth repair person tells you it’s going to take two weeks, you accept the appointment.  The next day, as clothes pile up from mice eating cookies, you realize schlepping twelve loads of laundry a week to the run-down Issaquah laundromat is Non-Optimal, and you research.

When you research, you discover a metric crap-ton of search engine optimization going on to dozens of links that ultimately look like the same company trying to sell a repair manual for $20.  When not deploying a middle finger at the attempt, you keep on researching until you find an exploded parts diagram to give you the idea of the complexity.

With an idea of the complexity, you saunter over to www.repairclinic.com for a no-bullshit video and diagnostic tool.  When you iterate through their top four things to check:

  • Water connections
  • Wastewater connection
  • Bellows — this is the rubbery gasket thingie that sits between the door and the spinning drum.  It was not leaking but, after seven years, it was really nasty and was on the “to replace anyway” list.
  • Wastewater pump — this is on the bottom, front, right of the washer and seemed very plausible.
Washer bellows
New washer bellows

You realize that your Electrolux front-loading washer is a complex machine that, unlike every other appliance owned, was designed to be serviced by human beings.   A single Phillips screwdriver and a copy of Cryptonomicon (to prop up the front of the washer) were all I needed to get this far:

Okay, it's apart. Now what do I do?
Okay, now what?

When you get this far, you realize the top four options on RepairClinic were wrong.  The live drip from above is your clue: the cold water valve was leaking from the solenoid on the water valve.

When the cold water valve continues leaking from the solenoid on the water valve, you order that part from RepairClinic and a bellows (out of stock at RC) from Amazon, both delivered via two-day air.  You also know the water faucet shutoffs aren’t working.  Nor is the whole-house cutoff that you really should have gotten fixed in 2002.

While you ponder this, you look for a plumber in a hurry.  When you are in a hurry, you get a guy young enough to be your son, and equally as experienced.  He will charge $250 for the two faucets plus $500 for the main house so this doesn’t happen again.  When he attempts each repair, he needs to take a trip to Home Depot for parts.  When he makes the trip to Home Depot, you begin to rue hiring this person.

The next day, laundry piled higher, you can remove the old parts, and see the corrosion on the blue and yellow thingie where water was leaking at the valves for who knows how long.  And when you do, you will admire the buckling of the hardwood floors refinished in 2010.

Water Pump
Water Pump

After catching up on a week’s worth of laundry, you will realize that summer has passed and it is time to put the house fans in the crawlspace for the season.  When you’re in the crawlspace, with your spider friends, you are curious and wander back to this:

Water pressure regulator. Reduces the higher pressure in to a 25 - 75psi range.
Water pressure regulator. Reduces the higher pressure in to a 25 – 75psi range.

When you see this, you wonder “What the hell is that thing” and do more research, because whatever the hell it is (water pressure regulator, likely the original unit installed when the house was built 30 years ago) is leaking.  Having well-adjusted household water pressure is a good thing, because you want adequate flow, without tearing the valves apart.

When you have a bad experience with a plumber, your first reaction is to try the next job yourself.  However, when you think of all the times you’ve done plumbing, you get sad.  When you get sad, you ask around for a recommendation for a professional.  A professional plumber will have a backlog, but in the meantime, you can answer some Plumbing Questions like “How big is the line?”  When you will make another visit to the crawlspace, much to the delight of your spider friends, and measure the pipe (1″):

Measuring the pipe
Measuring the pipe

You’ll notice how quiet it is this part of the evening.  Except for a disturbingly audible “drip drip drip” on the plastic vapor barrier.  When you hear an audible “drip drip drip” on the plastic vapor barrier, you become sad again because you need another plumber.  However, while you’re down there anyway, you’ll want to look for what’s actually leaking, just in case it’s something that your skills can make less worse.

When you look for what’s actually leaking, you’ll notice you’re directly downstairs from the whole house cutoff replaced the prior week.  When you go back upstairs, you decide to inspect the work a little closer.   When you inspect the work a little closer, you notice something wrong:

Hint #1: putty. Hint #2: The leak
Main water cutoff: What’s wrong with this picture?

When you pick your jaw up off the floor, you’ll say “holy crap, I’m not a plumber, but is that putty?  Being used as a pipe patch?”   The prize, a soggy piece of drywall, is slightly more adhesive than plumber’s putty, which is normally used in sink drains because it’s pliable, water tight but completely lacking adhesive properties necessary for a 50 psi line. 

When all between an active leak is a sad piece of plumber’s putty, you shut the water off, causing a ripple effect in the time-space continuum that manifests itself as every female member of the household having the urge to go to the bathroom right now.  There may be yelling.  When there’s yelling, it’s hard to explain to the plumber’s company’s answering service that their employee did a non-optimal job, please come fix this now.

When junior plumber comes back and spends three hours, he will  produce this:

Take two
Take two.

This new, left-handed valve, though substantially less leaky than the previous attempt, still has a minute leak.  But the situation is under control (for now).  With a very moist wall, a trip to Home Depot for a humidifier is in order.

When you run a dehumidifier, it pulls water out of the local surrounding.  When run in a bathroom, that is most likely the toilet.  To prevent this, apply some plastic wrap in a way that feels like some college prank.

Bad news comes in threes.  While spending the last sunny Saturday of (possibly) the year, I tented off an area with plastic to set up the dehumidifier and emptied the tank three times a day, much to the delight of my spider friends.  In anticipation of plumber #2’s visit, I removed the tent and discover a slow drip in the sewer (!) line heading out of the house.  Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Stinky Leak
Leak #1 on the poop superhighway.

When plumber #2 showed up to replace the pressure regulator, I asked him about the sewer and the whole house valve.  (No. Way. In. Hell. I’m calling back the original guy.)   The sewer is going to require another visit: all those junctions on the poo superhighway mean the whole thing needs to be cut out and plumber-healed.  He can’t do it today, because there are custom parts he doesn’t carry with him, but suggested I schedule it with his wife and he’ll make the list.  “Do you have a bucket?”

Leak #2
Leak #2: from the kitchen sink/dishwasher

The first night, the bucket had a gallon of aromatic water in it.  Emptying this much was going to be far more awful, so I researched options to temporarily minimize the leakage.   Collars (neoprene sleeves with radiator clamps), caulk, and various tapes come up as options.  Ducdt tape seemed viable, until I actually started doing it and realized how bad it is around gaps.  Electrical tape, however, worked really well.  The drip was effectively stopped.

Professional plumber came back ten days later and, in less than an hour, had all of the sewer stuff taken care of.  He spent a little longer (an hour and a quarter) removing and replacing the whole house cutoff again.

Cutoff #3
Cutoff #3

Total time: 2 1/4 hours at $200/hour plus another $120 in parts.  Totally worth it to have it done correctly.

How To Earn $200,000 And Just Get By… Bogus meme

One of the unfortunate aspects of Linked In is the abundance of stupid or bogus memes.  When someone gets really bad, I disconnect them.  However, a meme that recently caught my eye was this graphic titled “How To Earn $200,000 And Just Get By” with a link to a viral-wannabe ad (that I didn’t watch).

About five minutes of research confirmed that the author of this piece needs a different kind of help.

Warning: may contain bad assumptions
Source: may contain up to 50% bad assumptions

First, the author needs to hire an accountant.  Not only are the wrong base rates being used for taxes (overestimating it by $6k), there is also no evidence they’ve taken allowed deductions (standard deduction, mortgage interest childcare).  Net salary is closer to $146k.  (Source: IRS Topic 751)

Their cost of childcare is about 2x national average for a center-based childcare.  Savings: $12k.  Source: The Boston Globe.

The author feels entitled to take two $4k vacations, which is the average cost per week for an affluent family of four.  (Source: American Express.)  Since things are so tight, perhaps a staycation for one?  Savings: $4k with virtually no effort.

Gas is too high.  Assuming $4/gallon, 20mpg, 12k miles a year, I come up with $2,400 savings.  (Gas is currently under $2.05/gallon  Source: AAA).

Mortgage seems a skosh high.  If their house is $700k (based on the property tax note), and they have 20% down and a 30-year note, they should be able to get a monthly payment of ~$2650.  (Source.)  Savings: $4,200.

So with an hour into it, I found ways to shave the “what’s left” to be closer to $48k.  With that margin, I would pay off my Consumer Debt (unspecified in this), ditch the BMW for something modest, max out my Roth IRA contributions, and add to a 529 college savings.

One hour, and I saved them $40k
One hour, and I saved them $40k

In other words, we should not be rallying to the original author’s aid.

Removing Scratches from a Garmin GPSMAP 64s screen

A year+ of hiking has wrought havoc on the screen of my Garmin GPSMAP 64 screen in the form of numerous scratches from the unit rolling 70 feet down Rattlesnake Ridge viewpoint (when the carabiner prematurely unclicked) and rubbing up against several rock faces as I scooted along a narrow ledge to get to some insane geocache.  By last week, it was seriously hard to read:

Scratched Garmin Screen
Scratched Garmin Screen

Garmin offers an out-of-warranty repair for $99 (and three weeks), but since this is largely external damage, I looked into options for replacement glass.  The only one I’ve found was some dude in the Russian Federation offering one for $32 and six weeks.  Before I tried that, I considered some other options:

Toothpaste – this made no difference, but my GPS briefly had a minty-fresh smell to it.

Brasso – This removed the minty-fresh smell and replaced it with a petroleum distillate smell.  The screen seemed slightly shinier, but the scratches continued to mock me.

Headlight restoration kit – for about $12 (Amazon Gold Box), the kits include a spindly thing that fit in a drill, three grades of sandpaper and some polish.  This worked better.

Step 1: Disassemble the GPS.  There are six 1.3mm Torx screws on the back.

Disassemble the GPS.  There are six 1.3mm hex screws on the back.
Hex screws exposed.

Step 2: Gently pry the two sections apart a tiny bit.  The screen and antenna assembly (bottom) are just sitting on the case.  You’ll need to pry up the bottom, then slide it to the right so the antenna comes out of its shell.  You can then leave everything else connected to the “bottom” of the case.

Innards
Innards.  The front of the GPS is facing down.

The combination will look like this:

Sensitive electronics

Put this part in a dry place.  Now with the plastic shell, push the keyboard membrane until the whole thing pops out:

Pop out the rubber keyboard membrane.
Pop out the rubber keyboard membrane.

There are a lot of scratches on this screen!

Scratched screen
Scratched screen

Since I was going off the headlight kit directions, I taped off the other plastic bits of the case.  In retrospect, I don’t think this was particularly necessary since the screen juts out just a little bit higher.

Taping off the case bits
Taping off the case bits

Step 3: To the extent you can, clamp the GPS body to something that’s going to hold it firm, because you’ll want both hands to control the spinney motion of the drill.

Step 4: Dab some water on the pad/GPS.  Using the 800 grit sandpaper (the coarsest), sand the screen.  You’re going to feel bad about doing this, but it’ll get prettier.

Dab some water on the screen and sand.  You'll want to keep the screen wet throughout.
Dab some water on the screen and sand. You’ll want to keep the screen wet throughout.

As you sand, the screen is going to get a little goopy.  That’s okay.  Just keep adding water occasionally and sanding as evenly as you can.

Step 5: Switch out the 800 grit sandpaper for the 1500 grit sandpaper.  On the Goldilocks scale, this is “mama sandpaper,” not as gritty as the 800.  Repeat keeping things wet and sanding as evenly as you can.

Clamped in case after step #2
Clamped in case after step #2

This was the stage where I decided the masking tape probably wasn’t necessary, because guess what gets gradually sanded off?

Step 6: Rinse everything off and inspect.  The glass may be a little hazy.  If you see signs of the original scratches, repeat the two previous sanding steps again.

Step 7: Rinse everything off and swap the 1500 grit for the 2000 grit pad.  Repeat.  The more time you spend using 2000 grit, the better the results will be.

Step 8: Dry the screen well.  The headlight kit came with some goo that you dab onto the cloth pad and use to polish the screen.  You’ll want to keep it moist.  Also plan to spend a lot of time on this step.

Step 9: Rinse and inspect.  If everything looks great, remove the tape, clean both sides of the screen with Windex and reassemble the GPS.  If the screen isn’t clear, you will want to polish it some more.

Step 10: Dry and clean.  Assemble the GPS and test.

Final
Final

What can go wrong:

  1. You still have scratches: start the sanding process over with the 800 grit paper.
  2. Screen is hazy: Try polishing more with the 2000 grit.  If that’s not doing it, back down to 1500 a little bit, then go back to 2000.  Again, the super fine 2000 grit should make it look beautiful.
  3. There is a round spot in the middle: This can be caused by uneven pressure applied by the drill spinner thingie.  Your options are to either live with it — which is fine if it’s subtle — or get a block sander, the 800 grit and try to smooth it out.
  4. The case doesn’t go back together: It’s hard to see in the photos, but there is a rubber gasket that goes around the perimeter of the case.  Remove the six Torx screws, gently open the case, and reseat the gasket into the detente.

McClinchy Mile 2015

Shortly after last year’s McClinchy Mile, the Oso mudslide happened.  This year, they changed the route from Arlington to Granite Falls, to Arlington to Darrington via the new road through Oso.  A small donation was provided to the community.

Since this was both an excuse to get on my bike again after nearly six months off, and an opportunity to ride in a new area, I was pretty motivated to get out, even in the record-setting rain.  So were a lot of other folks.  Attendance was estimated to be above 200 people.  (300 pre-registered + 80 day-of)

Highway 503
Highway 503

Anticipating a moderate rain most of the day, I went straight for the REI rain pants and Showers Pass jacket.  I also had my very dorky Da Brim from last year’s Cycle Canada.  As long as I was pedaling, I stayed warm enough.   I didn’t have to think too hard about the route as it was essentially an out-and-back on 503.

Oso Mudslide
Oso Mudslide

There is a small pull-out at a viewpoint of the Oso Mudslide.  Anticipating people would want to reflect, a porta potty has been left there.  It’s weird seeing half the hill missing and the area generally covered with mud.  Here is a panoramic view on my Flickr page.

Rest stop - biscuits and gravy
Rhodes River Ranch – biscuits and gravy

On the way back, the stop at Rhodes River Ranch offered us the most delightful biscuits and gravy and fresh coffee.   The facility is a working horse ranch that had such success feeding its workers that people also come there for the food.  I really wanted to stay longer, but I was getting soooo cold not moving.

Considering how long I’ve been remiss in cycling, and how utterly rainy it was, the ride went pretty well.  I was glad I had a few dry sundries to change into, but I needed a serious dose of hot coffee and car heater blasting to shake the chills.

This would be an outstanding route in nicer weather.

Makeshift memorial

My walk into work takes me across the Lenora Street pedestrian bridge, a walkway that goes under the Alaskan Way Viaduct and over the pair of railroad tracks running north-south through downtown.  To the south of the walkway, and underneath the roar of traffic on the Viaduct, is the the fourth version of fence erected by the city to discourage people from going under the bridge.

Razor fence
The fourth version of the fence, with razors replacing the barbed wire. It still doesn’t stop people.

 

As evidenced by the bent razors, increasing graffiti, and garbage, the city is only slowing the activity.  People sleep along the corner of the walkway, sometimes well until noon.

Residentially challenged
Residentially challenged

Later in the day, there will be piles and piles of garbage.

Garbage strewn all over
Later that day: Garbage strewn all over

An doorway to the adjacent parking garage is a river of urine.   It is an area I try to spend as little time transiting as possible.  (I will be very glad when my office moves in a few months.)

Fence from afar.
Fence from afar.

Last Wednesday morning (the 4th), I happened to see this photo and narrative taped to the base of the middle of the fence:

Christopher Lee Davis
Christopher Lee Davis

It is a picture of Christopher Lee Davis – in younger and happier times – with an orange, bottle of water, and two spent tea candles.  The white note reads:

To you, who has found this simple offering, please choose something among it to enjoy.  That is the spirit of which I Have placed it here.  It is in honor of my son, Christopher Lee Davis, who died one year ago on this ground hear of an overdose.  There is no more that I can do for him in this life than to honor the joy and beauty he brought me by trying to share something with others, whether or not you knew him is of no concern.

Please enjoy some if you choose and if possible, leave some to be enjoyed by others as well.

It would be a great honor for as many souls as possible to share in this simple offering for Christopher, my beautiful and only child.  I do have a favor to ask and that is for those of you who find this to please leave these little things of his here in memory of him today, Tuesday, March 3, 2015.  I am unable to be here to light this candle, so if someone would light this candle here on this spot for Chistopher at night fall, it would mean very much to me.  Thank you.

Because the name is so common, I have had little success finding anything specific about him.  I feel very sad for the parents.

Cycling Events

This is going to be another light cycling event year simply because I’ll have a lot of weekends sucked up by touring colleges with the kiddo; however, I think the big three are selected:

ososlide
Oso slide

McClinchy Mile – March 15.  I think this is the only local organized ride in March.  This year’s event has a route taking us along the Stillaguamish River through the Oso landslide zone.

 

lots_of_open_road
Pendleton has wide open roads, sun


Century Ride of the Centuries
– May 23 – 25.  I think this may be the event I’ve participated in the most often.  Pendleton has great roads, the CRoC rest stops have food second only to R.A.P.S.O.D.Y. (may it rest in peace), and the weather is usually pretty okay.

Home of the Oreo Cows!
Home of the Oreo Cows!

Cycle Oregon – September 12 – 19.  This year’s “Hell on Wheels” is similar to the route I rode in 2008, my first Cycle Oregon:

  • Baker City – Farewell Bend – 51 miles, 1500′ gain
  • Farewell Bend – Cambridge, ID – 53 miles, 2600′ gain
  • Cambridge to Halfway, OR – 103 miles, 6600′ gain, including the out-and-back to the Hells Canyon Dam.

    Hells Canyon Dam
    Hells Canyon Dam
  • Halfway to Wallowa Lake – 84 miles, 7530′ gain – Over the top of the dam to an amazing viewpoint.

    Hells Canyon overlook
    Hells Canyon overlook
  • Rest day – there’s an optional 44-miles, but after the previous two days, I am going to want to take the tram ride up.
  • Wallowa Lake to La Grande – 85 miles, 2800′ gain
  • La Grande to Baker City – 59 miles – 1800′ gain