Monday, August 17, 2009

Home Improvements, this ain't

Several months ago I was using the downstairs bathroom when I noticed the fan's switch was on, but the fan...wasn't. I flicked the switch to off, then on again, and the fan stayed silent.

That's not good, I thought to myself.

I recalled hearing the fan running the night before because, well, it's a bathroom exhaust fan in a half-bathroom (i.e no bath or even shower) so let's just say the fan was on for a very good reason and leave it at that.

Apparently, as had happened in the past, the fan had been left on all night, only this time it didn't last through the night and the motor had burned out.

Last week while shopping at our local hardware store we picked up a new exhaust fan because in my typical over-confident manner, despite never having done this before, I assumed I could remove the burned out fan and replace it with a new one.

It's not an over-inflated sense of self. Before we moved in I tore up the downstairs carpet and laid down laminate flooring, despite never having done anything like that before either. I replaced both downstairs light fixtures, all three bathrooms light fixtures, and as soon as the wife finds a light she likes I'll be installing a new kitchen light. I also installed new faucets in all three bathrooms and installed a new under-the-sink water filtration system. I even took off the door to our master bathroom and rehung it so it opens into our bedroom rather than into the bathroom. I don't believe I can do stuff; I know I can :)

Having promised the wife that I'd install the new fan this weekend, and having no internet (at home. Long story short. Cable Modem died and ISP promised to send a new one at no charge (and we're not 'renting' one), so why buy one, right?) I had nothing better to do (I still don't have Overlord: Dark Legend, but then my birthday isn't for 2 more weeks. Hint, hint.) so Sunday after breakfast I figured, "Why not install the new fan?"

I took off the vent/cover and managed to unplug the fan itself, which prompted me to ask, rather colorfully and vocally, just why the hell would someone paint the plug of an exhaust fan when said fan and said plug are behind a plastic vent/cover? Other than "they're an idiot, they work for cheap, or are on a deadline...or all three" I have no clue. I try not to think too hard about the competency of the people who actually built our house. I mean really, it can't be too hard. I'm actually pretty sure I could build a house too, if I had the building materials and equipment.

Normally for a job like this, involving electrickery, I'd turn off the breaker outside. But with this job taking place in an interior, downstairs bathroom I needed light to work by, so the bathroom lights needed to be on, meaning the fan's wires would still be live except for one thing; the wall switch was in the 'off' position. I wasn't too concerned. This is the U.S. we're talking about, with it's laughably pathetic 120 volts. Nothing like the 240 we had back home. Why, when I was a kid...

Several months back I replaced a light switch in the garage, while the power was still on, and of course I managed to shock myself. At first the tingling sensation was so light that I thought I was imagining it, then it happened again :P So I wasn't overly concerned about working with semi-live wires this time around.

I got the fan out then disconnected the outlet and holding my breath (ok, so I was slightly concerned) I took the bare wires, resumed breathing, and shoved them up into the hole so I could begin removing the old fan's mounting bracket.

It didn't want to come out.

Shining a flash light up into the gap on the side of the bracket I discovered a couple of screws holding it in place. Holes in sides of the bracket itself showed that I should be able to lift it up off the screws and move it forward, and it should drop right out. It didn't. The screws were in too tight to allow the bracket to move upwards. I managed to get a screwdriver into the tiny space, without destroying too much of the drywall (is it still drywall when it's on the ceiling?) and got the screws out.

The bracket still didn't want to come out.

I shone the flashlight back in and noticed...a third screw. A third screw which (IMEO) really didn't need to be there, and which only served to make the extraction process in-f**king-sanely difficult. For some reason the first two screws I'd removed had been angled down, but this third screw was pointing up, as if the screwer had screwed it in from above, before the floor had been finished. I began to suspect that the fan had actually been installed from above, which was only logical because it would have been a damn sight easier than installing it from below like I would be doing with the new one...if...I...could only...GET THE OLD ONE OUT!!!

It was obvious what had to happen. The old bracket must die!

From the garage came my jemmy bar (they call it a jimmy bar or pry bar here in the U.S.) and after literally crushing the bracket the third screw's head popped off and the bracket hung free. Bob Villa I ain't. More like Craig or Paul Pumphrey ;)

After deft maneuvering I got the bracket out of its hole, cut free the duct tape around the vent and...was halfway done.

Wire up the electric socket on the new bracket. Tape up the vent. Plug in the fan and we have power! Yes. Remove the fan and sit it aside and now it's time to get the new bracket into the hole in the ceiling. The job actually went a lot smoother from here, although my duct tape came free and I had to apply a second piece after the bracket was up in the ceiling.

Finally I got the bracket mounted, the fan installed, plugged in, flicked the switch and...Wooooooooossshhh!!!! It worked.

I put the new vent/cover in (& those things are a freaking pain in the proverbial, too) only to discover it hung down about a quarter of an inch. Ahh, no worries. It's not too bad from this angle...but...sitting on the 'loo? Looking in the mirror? Uh uh. No. No that's not going to do. Not at all. The wife will not be happy with that one bit. So I needed to remove the vent cover, take out the new fan, and remount the bracket so the vent cover will fit more snugly and hug the ceiling so there's no unsightly 1/4" gap.

So up we go again to take off the new vent cover...and...ugh! Damn! This 1/4" gap is...tight!

Snap.

Snap?

Uh oh.

Yup. 'Uh oh' is right. A restraining clip on the new vent cover has snapped off. Crap. The new vent cover is broken. Kaput.

Old vent cover to the rescue!

Hmmm. If I bend these wire clips on the old vent cover like so...it should pull the vent upwards more snugly, like...so. And...the old vent snaps up into place against the ceiling. Just like it should. Perfect. I'm happy, and Liz should be happy now, too. (And that's even more important than my happiness, because if Liz is not happy, I'm not happy. Funny about that.)

Take a seat, look in the mirror and...the view from the toilet looks pretty damn good, and that's not a phrase you'll hear from Bob Villa or the Pumphrey brothers ;)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Raiding/Loot Grind alternative

It's already been partially implemented in the form of Badges & Reward gear, and this topic has sort of been done to death anyway, but could Loot distribution as described below work? Would it be feasible?

Forget backpacks to carry around gear. Give us a "wardrobe" with multiple outfit slots. Diablo II did this to a small degree in allowing you to "equip" two sets of weapons, i.e., two 1-handed weapons and one 2-handed weapon, that you could switch between with a single key press. Now change this up and allow a character to equip multiple sets of armor, i.e, a Healer could carry DPS gear AND Healing gear (although +Spell Power is negating this to some degree), a Warrior could carry Tank Gear and DPS gear, a Pally could carry Healing gear, Tank gear, AND DPS gear, etc. All kept in their multiple Wardrobe Tabs, all ready to be switched in & out at the press of a button. We can switch weapons mid-fight, so why not allow us to change armor as well?

Tank goes down, the DPS Pally switches gear and takes his place, while if the Healer gets taken out, the DPS Druid can switch gear and take over. If a fight requires both a Tank and an Off-Tank, when the Off-Tank's target goes down he can switch gear and help out with DPS, or vice versa.

"OMG!" You say. "Are you crazy? We spend enough time Raiding for our gear as it is, and sometimes we never get our full set before the Guild advances. And you're advocating something like this? Forget you!"

Hold on a second. Hear me out. That's where the change to Loot Distribution kicks in. If you've got a 20-man Raid then defeating a Raid Boss takes a coordinated effort by all 20 of you. Sure, maybe one or two of you are tapping 1-2-1-2-1-2 while watching NCIS or House or Simpsons' reruns, but in most cases you will not bring the Boss down unless everyone is pitching in and helping out. So, why not reward everyone who's there when the Boss goes down?

If you help defeat the Boss you get rewarded, it's that simple.

If you're part of a raid that defeats a Boss you get presented with your own personal Loot screen with a choice of 3-4 randomly chosen, class-specific items. They might be weapons or armor or accessories (rings, necklaces, etc) but they'll be specific to your class and you don't have to spend DKP for them, or /roll, or watch the Night Elf ninja your rifle because "Agi & AP? Rogue-weapon! LOL!"

Being random loot it's possible that if you run the Instance multiple times, or there's multiple Bosses, that you may be presented with items you already have, but that's just the luck of the roll (or the unluck as the case may be). But at least you wouldn't spend hours during the week preparing for the Raid, farming Mats, making Pots, etc, then spend a couple of hours on Raid night downing the Bosses only to see all the Loot go to everyone else. Of course you're happy for your Guildmates, but man it sucks to put in all that time during the week only to turn up on Raid night and not a single Drop goes your way. This would change that.

Welfare Epics? Hardly. You were there, you contributed, you get rewarded. How is that Welfare? Are they Welfare Epics when your new Guildmates run low level Raids on off-nights to gear you up? You may not be contributing as much DPS as everyone else, and just maybe they could do this without you, but you're still contributing, you're still present when the Boss goes down, so you still get rewarded.

Of course being Raids and to avoid the system being exploited Raid Lockouts would need to be implemented with the Instances being reset & unlocked every Sunday night/Monday morning (or following routine maintenance if it's a regular, weekly occurrence), so there would be no constant rerunning of an Instance to Gear everyone up. If your Guild beats the Instance and defeats all the Bosses then SOP means you wait a week before you can go back for more Gear. And if your Guild is still getting their act together and you spend 3 hours downing just one Boss? At least everyone will have something to show for it, so next time the run might go a little smoother because now everyone is a little more powerful, instead of just a couple of players getting upgrades.

Would this work? Would this make Raiding a little more enjoyable? Or would it still foster a forum war between the hardcore Raiders and the perceived Welfare-Epic recipients? Some people just need something to complain about or someone to pick on or they're not happy. There's no pleasing everyone, so why not try to please as many people as possible?