PermaLink Slime! Slime! Slime!10/07/2007 08:15 PM
There's a certain advantage to working with most computers, in that they basically don't need maintenance.  Mostly, the stuff either works, or it doesn't, but it doesn't need the things other lower-tech items seem to always want.  Though technologically a lot less complex than, say, my MacBook Pro, the house has a near-constant array of things that degenerate whether you use them or not (mostly when you do).

For a few months, the washing machine has been taking its damn time doing laundry. The tub was taking an eternity to fill, and then would rinse and spin for more than an hour before it finished, meaning you were lucky to be able to do one load of laundry in an afternoon. Tonight I finally had enough -- I'm out of socks and underwear -- and got the tools out.

If you have well water, or particularly-crappy city water, and you have an automatic washer, there are usually two small stainless-steel screens that are intended as the last line of defense to keep sediment from getting onto your clothes. Even though you may (as we do) have a whole-house filter, the sediment screens tend to clog up with shit over time, and the flow into the washer will slow. We happen to have a 12-year-old Kenmore that was (with its matching dryer) a wedding gift from my parents when I married Nancy in 1995. In all those years, I didn't even know those screens existed, let alone that they needed to be replaced.

I got the tools out, and after disconnecting the water lines, looked into the inlet valve to see... crud. A big wad of what looked like fudge with small rock chips in it. I popped those out and found two little hemispherical stainless-steel wire screens about the size of Hershey's Kisses, and they were pretty well jammed with crud. I took them out, soaked them in Lime-A-Way and brushed them up with a toothbrush I keep around for such jobs, and popped them back in. Immediately, the washer was back to its usual self, so I threw some particularly-vile clothes into the tub, set it for medium load, dumped some purple detergent in, and the thing took off. That was 20 minutes ago, and I just heard the thing click over into its first spin cycle. Before cleaning the screens, the thing would still be filling itself for the wash cycle. Problem solved.

Nora seems to think I'm some sort of genius, but really, how hard can a washing machine or a stove be if I can debug software? The stove died, but what failed wasn't the low-tech stuff, it was the computer control panel that controlled the oven. Once that failed, I knew it was time for a new, so we went out and found one. Some days the stove that was here when I bought the house -- a 1952-vintage Norge, I think -- has a certain appeal to it. No chips (or transistors or even vacuum tubes or Fleming valves) in it anywhere, and the thing ran for 46 years. The chest freezer in the basement is a 1953 International, and there's not a mark on it, it just works (though the frost in it is so thick I suspect that small bits of mastodon and saber-tooth-tiger meat are locked into the glacier). It stayed with the house because it was too big to get out the basement door... it had been installed in 1953, and they remodeled the doorway sometime later to make it too narrow to permit the International to leave in one piece. So, it stays until it can't be fixed any more.

At this rate, I will have been dead for ten years before it ever even needs service.

See also, "why the International Harvester Company is not in the home appliance business any more."

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