Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Plumbing over Thanksgiving

After moving into the new house the wife missed the pull-out faucet I'd installed for her in the old kitchen, so Thanksgiving morning found me underneath the kitchen sink, can of WD-40 in one hand, spanner in the other, trying to remove an old, rusted out faucet so I could install the shiny new one we'd bought at Lowe's earlier that week. Eventually it came free (as all things must in the face of WD-40, for it is truly the Irresistible Force), showering me with rusty debris in the process.

After carefully following the instructions (and too bad if that means I'm meant to hand in my Man Card, because this is one guy who (sometimes) reads instructions and stops to ask for directions) I had the new faucet installed and just needed to hook up the water pipes.

Except the existing water pipes are these horrible, semi-flexible metal hoses that Contractors apparently love (probably because they're the cheapest on the market) and which appear designed to be attached to one faucet, and one faucet only. Meaning when you bend these semi-flexible metal hoses to one side in order to remove said faucet, then bend them back to hook them up to the new faucet, they protest by cracking, and leaking, and spraying water all over the place.

Unfortunately you cannot just replace the hose, you need to replace the faucets beneath the sink as well because they're all part of the same unit.

Fortunately I had several hoses with me from similar plumbing jobs at the old house (I replaced pretty much all the faucets in not just the kitchen, but the 3 bathrooms and 1/4 bathroom, to boot).

Unfortunately, I had just one replacement faucet and the top attachment was the wrong size (7/16" and I needed 3/4").

Fortunately Home Depot is just a few minutes away.

Unfortunately it's the morning of Thanksgiving...so they're closed. All day. Until 5am the next morning when they open for Black Friday.

Liz tells me she told me they were closed. I claim I didn't hear her or I wouldn't have started the job because I knew I would have to make a trip to Home Depot. We now have a new pull-out faucet in the kitchen sink but it has no water. I turn the water back on to the house and discover the faucet beneath the sink is leaking....slo-o-o-o-wly. Drip. By. Drip. I throw the bucket underneath it. The bucket I've got on hand just for catching leaks like this one. Because I'm a former Boy Scout and I'm Prepared. (Except when it comes to Home Depot being closed on Thanksgiving Day. I mean really, what are the odds?)

Then Liz begins preparing the Thanksgiving meal which we'll (fortunately) be eating at her parents' house.

This leaves me with some spare time. Time I use productively. Meaning I dig out Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles ;) And yes, it does look as good as I remember, if not even better.

After dinner with the in-laws, during which Liz gives the MIL detailed instructions on what to do at our house (feed the cat) and what she cannot do (use/flush the toilet) while we're in Vegas for the weekend, we head back home where dishes are piling up in the sink. Mostly pots & pans.

We get up early'ish the next morning for breakfast at Leroy's where I regretted experimentally ordering the Cottage Fries instead of my usual Tater Tots, then returned home for a pitstop where the water was briefly turned on, then back off again, then off we went to Vegas.

The MacShack. For a fast food pasta place, it actually wasn't too bad.
The Luxor. Decor is very interesting, but the angled elevators are something else.
Peter Lik photography. You have to see it to really appreciate it, and it needs to be displayed properly. The MacShack had a few of his pieces on their wall but those on display in his studio at the Mandalay Bay were simply amazing.
Excalibur buffet. Nothing to write home about. Only plus was the All-Day All-You-Can-Eat pass.
The Hoover Dam. Very impressive, especially considering when it was built and the resources available at the time. It's the Pyramids of the 20th Century.
The Hoover Dam Bypass. Even more impressive (IMO) is this 2000-foot long bridge, 900-feet above the river, supported by a handful of columns and a 1,000-foot wide arch. Like Peter Lik's photography, much more impressive in person.
Not leaving Las Vegas until lunchtime on Sunday on Thanksgiving weekend? Not one of our best ideas.

Monday morning was my RDO so after taking the kids to school I came home, turned the water back off (again), unscrewed the beneath-the-sink faucet from beneath the sink, then headed off to Home Depot. I found a clerk and together we found the faucets I needed then it was back home to finish the job I'd started several days ago. The hoses I had hooked up to the sink faucet were just fine, and when I turned the water back on they showed no sign of leaking, nor did the cold water "beneath-the-sink" faucet. But the hot water "beneath-the-sink" faucet was leaking, and not slowly this time, either.

Back under the sink I went (and fortunately this one gave me plenty of room to work, once I was under there) where I discovered tightening the faucet's nut not only didn't stop the leak but exasperated the problem.


Slide out from under the sink, rush outside, turn off the water to the house, then back in under the sink again (after mopping up the water), where I managed to jab myself in the forehead with the bottom of one of the bolts holding the sink faucet to the counter. I stared up at this 4" long, brass rod protruding downward from beneath the sink, and I wondered how it was that I hadn't stabbed myself in the head with it before this. Then I thought of how lucky I was that the bolt wasn't longer, or it might have been my eye that got poked and not my forehead. Chalk up another close call to the Cap'n retaining his 20-20 vision and not having to wear an eye patch. Ya-har!

Aside: About 20 years ago I worked in a factory that made Flue Kits (for stoves & heaters) and one morning I was cleaning up the shop floor of trash & debris. This included the 1/2" metal packing straps used to secure the pallets of sheet metal during transit. The end of one strap had jammed itself under a pallet and rather than lift up the pallet I simply pulled on the strap until it came free, at which point it tried to return to its original, rectangular shape (as a result of being tightly wrapped around pallets of sheet metal). This meant the loose end flew up and tried to rejoin the end being held in my hand but it found my forehead instead, which is how I suddenly found myself with a cut about 1/2" above my eyebrow, or to put it another way, 3/4" above my eye. No, I was not wearing safety glasses, and no, the seriousness of the moment was not lost upon me, either.

Meanwhile. Back under the sink. After rubbing my forehead for several seconds I took off the hot water "beneath-the-sink" faucet, wrapped some Teflon tape around the thread, rolled a bead of Plumber's Putty around the pipe (why I didn't do this the first time I don't know, especially as I'd done it for the cold water faucet), put everything back together again, slid back out, turned the water back on, stuck my head back under the sink and...no leak! Excellent!

I lifted up the lever to turn on the kitchen faucet and...no water.

Well, that's odd.

I turned the lever left, I turned it right. I lifted it to the top, I pulled out the head so its extension hose came out. I pushed the button on the end of the faucet to switch between spray & stream. No water.

I pushed the faucet's lever back down then turned to the instructions (and no, I'm still not turning in my Man Card). Please don't tell me I did all that, missed a step, and now I have to disassemble everything because there's a plastic grommet in there somewhere that I didn't remove. Nope. Nothing remotely like that in the instructions. So what could be wrong?

I stuck my head back under the sink and looked at the new 1/4-turn "beneath-the-sink" hot & cold faucets that I'd just bought at Home Depot, then I reached in and gave the cold faucet a quarter turn. The hose attached to the cold water faucet gave a slight shake, as if it had been empty but was now filled with water-under-pressure. I reached over and gave the hot water faucet a quarter turn, and the hose attached to the hot water faucet also gave a slight shake, as if it too was now filled with water-under-pressure.

Emerging from beneath the sink I stood up, stared at the sink faucet's lever for several seconds, then slowly, cautiously, lifted it up. Water began flowing. From the end of the nozzle. Like it should. I am so much happier when my achievements can measure up to my ego. The wife is happier, too, especially as she once again has a pull-out faucet in her kitchen sink.

At least she was happy, until she discovered our washing machine wasn't pumping water at the start of the cycle.

I was curious if it had been because I'd repetitively turned the house's water on & off that morning, and yet I'd done plumbing repairs prior to this which hadn't affected the washer. A quick Google revealed that Microsoft apparently make Washing Machines now, so unplugging them for a while (rebooting them, one might say) can sometimes cause the machine's computer to "reset", thus fixing some problems.

After unplugging the machine I stared at it and thought, "Isn't it a little lopsided?" My spirit level showed that it was. It had a decided lean to the left. I got down on my hands & knees and looked under the front of the machine. Although both front legs were resting on the floor, the left leg was almost level with the base of the machine, whereas the right leg was screwed almost all the way out. That would explain the lean to the left (and it was nothing to do with it being a Californian washing machine).

I lifted the front of the machine up (so I could get to the left leg to unscrew it) and was surprised when its weight shifted ever so slightly. I sat the machine back down and looked at the spirit level still sitting on top of the machine. The bubble was now in the middle. The left lean was gone. How odd. I looked back under the machine and saw the left leg was now sitting an inch or so off the floor. And then I remembered reading how many newer model washing machines (although at 8 years old it's not like our machine is new) have self-leveling back legs which are "activated" by lifting the machine. I screwed the front left leg out until it met the floor, plugged the power cord back in, turned the Cycle-select knob to the start of the cycle, and heard running water. Lifting the lid I saw water was now flowing into the tub like it should be. Cool. I'd "fixed" the washing machine without even trying. Although I wasn't sure if the wife was too happy to have it working again. She'd already been online looking at new machines, and had even picked out a front-loading job for just $400.

I'm not claiming to be the next Bob Vila, but I do like being able to perform small repairs around the house, even if by accident ;)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles

After reading the fun Anton is having with this old Gamecube game, I'm actually tempted to drag my copy out as well. Especially as I can now play it on the Wii (good ol' backwards compatibility) over my 50" Plasma where it will hopefully still look as good as I remember, if not better.

Unfortunately I'm not sure where both our GBAs are, so I don't know if the boy and I can multiplay like we used to do (back when he was 4), although if I can find them I'm pretty sure I can lay my hands on the GBA-GC connector cables.

I seem to recall that "leveling up" the craftsmen in your village needed to be done a certain way, at least if you wanted access to the best weapons & armor in the game. The completionist in me is turned off by this.

Why can't we just play games anymore?

Why do so many games have us do so much outside the game when we're not playing (online research, etc.) in order to maximize our enjoyment of the game when we are playing?

Sure, we don't have to do that, but if you don't then there's a good chance you won't experience everything the game has to offer. It's almost enough to put you off playing. Almost. If we didn't already have plans for this Thanksgiving weekend, I'm pretty sure I know what I'd be doing over the holiday weekend ;)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Canceling DISH TV

A couple of weeks ago we moved and canceled our cable TV service (Dish TV), which we had originally subscribed to as part of a package deal through our phone company ( AT&T).

When I called Dish earlier this month and told the rep we were moving he was quite persistent about getting the service transferred to our new location, but I was equally persistent about canceling. Finally he said he would mail some boxes for us to pack our Dish equipment into, boxes that we would use to mail the Dish equipment back to them. The Rep took down our new address, a couple of weeks went by, but no boxes arrived.

Today I called Dish back to find out where the boxes were, and right from the start it was obvious there would be problems.

"Thank you for calling Dish Network. If you are an existing customer or have technical issues, press 1. For all other inquiries, press 2. To repeat this Menu Press * ."

Yep, that was all the options I had.

So...2...I guess.

"Please wait while we direct your call to the agent who can best assist you."

Tum te tum te tum.

"Thank you for calling AT&T. Is the number you're calling about xxx-xxx-xxxx (my new home phone number)?" asked the automated system.

AT&T? WTF? Er..."No!"

"Please enter or say your 10-digit phone number associated with your account."

Rather than confuse the voice recognition program with my Aussie accent I keyed in our old phone number.

"Thank you. I'll just look that up."

Queue in little, clicking, typing-type sounds meant to make us think the computer is actually typing on a keyboard.

"Okay. Now in a few words, please tell me the reason why you're calling. For example, to add Caller ID service to your account, you could say 'Add service'."

I spoke into my phone as clearly as I could - DISH TV

"Thank you. Please wait while we direct your call to the agent who can best assist you."

Tum te tum te tum.

"Thank you for calling Dish Network. If you are an existing customer or have technical issues, press 1. For all other inquiries, press 2. To repeat this Menu Press * ."


I guess it's 1 then.

"Please wait while we direct your call to the agent who can best assist you."

Tum te tum te tum.

"Thank you for calling AT&T. Is the number you're calling about xxx-xxx-xxxx (my new home phone number)."

What? Again??? "NO!"

"Please enter or say your 10-digit phone number associated with your account."


I keyed in our old number, again, queue in more clicking, typing sounds, and finally a woman answered...just as my In-laws chose to call. So as the Rep was trying to talk to me my Call Waiting was beeping and obliterating her every other word. Eventually we confirmed that she couldn't help me because she was with Sales and I needed Equipment Returns. She offered to transfer me and I explained that I'd been back & forth a couple of times so could she please make sure I got to the correct department.

I guess that was the wrong thing to say.

"Thank you for calling Dish Network. If you are an existing customer or have technical issues, press 1. For all other inquiries, press 2. To repeat this Menu Press * ."

I think I pressed 1 again, I forget now. My brain is trying to repress this period of my life. Finally I managed to speak to another Rep, this one a man with an Indian accent, who began every sentence with "I apologize...".

(If your Rep has a foreign accent, constantly apologizes, and uses phrases like "Let me access my resources" chances are you're dealing with someone who probably cannot help you, but will merely "refer your issue to the research department".)

I gave this fellow the benefit of the doubt, and my old phone number, at which point he accessed his resources to find my account, then told me I needed to wait 7-10 business days for the Return boxes to arrive.

I told him it had already been 7-10 business days and we still hadn't received the boxes. He apologized (yet again) then said he would have new Return boxes mailed "to your address..." at which point he began to recite my old address.

"No! That's my old address." He ignored me and continued to recite my old address. "That's my old address!" I said, shouting him down. "We moved. We're not there any more."

He apologized, again, and that was it. "Just transfer me to your supervisor," I told him. "All you can do is apologize! You can't help me so transfer me to your supervisor."

"I apologize..."


Hold music came on the line. Hold music, with a Hindi influence. I was pretty sure I could hear a sitar strumming away. Interesting. I was on hold for several minutes and Liz said, "they're not picking up. They want you to hang up."

"I'm not hanging up," I told her, and that's when my phone beeped. I looked at the screen and saw 'Call Ended'. They had hung up on me.


I guess it's time to take a trip to the old place to see if there are a couple of Return boxes waiting for me there, because apparently if you don't return their equipment they like to charge you for it, and that stuff ain't cheap.