Sunday, August 27, 2006

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Blog...

...for this public service announcement:


We spent $1,000 on a Kenmore Calypso (AKA Whirlpool Calypso) just barely three years ago and it crapped out on us on Tuesday, as I was trying to sneak in a last minute washload before a short vacation.

Buoyed by success with ball rod replacement, we tried to fix the problem ourselves.

The machine's LED gave us an error message "Ld" which is supposed to mean the drain hose is clogged, and theoretically you should clean it.

However, this means you have to remove the hose from the machine, causing all the water trapped in the washer to gush out.

Luckily, we were prepared. The water filled up a 16 gallon shop vac and then some.

Although the inside of the drain hose was gooky (technical term) it wasn't clogged. And nothing else appeared amiss.

So we reattached it and the machine drained properly. But the clothing inside was still soapy, so logically that meant running a rinse/spin cycle.

Which didn't work.

It's always nice to be up until 2 AM squeezing water out of an unfinished load of laundry and mopping up wet floors, isn't it?

Plus, laundry is the only domestic duty I have the least bit of interest in. Maybe because it involves clothing and I'm into fashion, or maybe because it involves isolating myself in a little room where I can watch TV that's not Cartoon Network. Luckily, the typical week finds me doing an average of a load of laundry per day.

So, I have more than a casual interest in getting this machine working again - and fast.

When our semi-vacation (using the term "vacation" loosely for reasons I shan't go into here) concluded, much internet searching ensued -- most of which brought me to the first line of this post.

Despite its Consumer Reports glowing review (the reason for our purchase of this model) this is one lousy machine. There's a class action suit settlement -- but it only covers breakdowns within 18 months of purchase.

Does this mean we should consider ourselves lucky that our one-grand bought us 3 years?

Information gleaned from various complaints gave me a glimmer of hope that there was still a chance we might be able to fix it ourselves.

I found the diagnostic codes for the machine and the service manual online. It was kinda fun to punch in the "Key Dance" and make the machine do various tasks (well, not do them in most cases.)

So, yesterday, we shop vac-ed out all the water again (this particular machine as a holding tank inside, so you can't just bail out the basket) and turned the washer over on its side.

We don't have a proper laundry room, just appliances in a closet in the upstairs bath, so we were effectively being held captive in the room by a giant metal box. Our only escape route was blocked.

Took the bottom off the washer, hoping to find some obvious obstruction (errant gerbil?) was screwing things up with the drain pump. No such luck. No bra underwire (an item frequently mentioned in posts as being found inside.) Not even a lost sock.

Since he went through all the trouble of flipping the darn thing over, my Esteemed Husband removed two more drain motor hoses and I rinsed out the gelatinous deposits inside.

Once reassembled and uprighted, I did the diagnostic sequence Key Dance. It cycled through and everything worked! Did it again - it worked again. And again.

We didn't know exactly what we did to fix it, but I patted our collective backs anyway.

Put in a small load of towels to actually wash. The machine started to fill.

And then it stopped.

One $260 phone call later, we now have a two year service contract that covers unlimited repairs.

Thankfully, internet posts revealed that Sears would sell an extended warranty to someone whose washer was already broken.

I just supplied my mastercard number to the lovely lady on the telephone (who first tried to sell me a $600 five-year plan, then a $380 three-year plan...) and simply had to wait until the next day to schedule the repair.

So...Thursday, sometime in the exceedingly narrow window of 8 AM - 5 PM a "technician" will show up to look at our washer.

Surely I will spend most of the day anxiously anticipating his visit...only to find he will leave as quickly as he arrives, with a vague promise to return another day with the needed part.

I'm leaning towards the motherboard being the problem, so that means he'll probably replace the drain motor first.

In the meantime, the Esteemed Husband is taking three bags of dirty laundry over to his mom's today while I'm at work.

Which is all well and good, but it means I'll be washing my undies in the sink. Because some part of my psyche just can't deal with my 85-year-old mother-in-law handling my V-strings.

And forgive me if I temporarily disappear from this forum. Impending poverty tends to spoil my sense of humor.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Help Me! I've been Deppnotized!

It all began innocently enough, in the cereal aisle of my now-favorite-since-the-frenzied-crowds-have-died-down supermarket, Wegman's...

There he was - staring boldly in my direction. With his hand resting oh-so-casually on the top of the ship's wheel. His kohl-rimmed eyes staring boldly into mine.

I can't explain why, but I felt strangely compelled to buy this cereal.

To the point of actually having to talk my daughter into saying she wanted it herself. "It has pirate-shaped marshmallows..." I said in my most detached-yet-persuasive voice.

(Normally, I never buy marshmallow cereal for the kids because they just pick out the marshmallows and once it's de-mallowed they never finish the box.)

"Okay," said my tween, not all that enthusiastically. But it was enough for me to tenderly place the box into the cart.

(A total aside, but if I were an actual pirate I'd be incredibly insulted by this marshmallow rendition.)

Tried to convince myself that my compulsion to purchase this cereal was just admiration for the ballsiness of the Pirates' promotional machine. But there was something more...something intangible.

Not too long afterwards, I was browsing the candy machine at work. None of my beloved peanut bars in stock (darn!) But another peanut product caught my eye:

Here's Johnny! He's smaller, but definitely a presence.
Plus, you get Pirate games:

What passes for a good pirate game anyway? A disemboweling swordfight?

It may just be my imagination, but the nuts in this "Captain's Gold" version seemed smaller than the usual m&m nut. A reflection of Mr. Depp? Gee, I hope not...

I'm going to take a break here to remind everyone that this is not all about me having a little thing for Johnny Depp. I think I've made it rather clear that he is too pretty for my tastes.

Nay, there is an altogether different force at work here.

Something sinister may be afoot.

Perhaps this frightening episode will convince you:

Another food aisle (frozen) in another supermarket (Stop and Shop - I hate that name - like, what else are you going to do? Drive by slowly and somehow shop without actually stopping? Stop and meander casually through the aisles with no intent of buying? But I digress...)

I grabbed a box of frozen waffles - mini waffles in a sugary flavor I thought the kids would like.

It wasn't until I was safely at home, opening the box to serve them that I even noticed the side panel:

It was then that it all became bone-chillingly clear. It was then that I realized that I had been Depp-notized.

Was it the initial encounter with the cereal box? Or some invisible rays that came out at me during a TV spot?

I'm even thinking about getting my own Pirate bandanna.

And it's not just me. Look what my daughter checked out from the library on Thursday:

DEPPNOTISM. There is no other logical explanation.

Perhaps you scoff. But truly, what else other than Deppnotism could explain the boffo box office for Pirates 2?

And what else could explain the involvement of Bono, Sting, and a host of other "name" musicians in an album of sea shantys?


Consider yourself warned, matey. Avert your gaze from the image of Depp wherever it might appear.

Lest ye find yourself in the possession of tastes-like-it's-been-around-since-the-original-movie cereal.

(The kids don't even like the marshmallows. Oh well...all that means is an excuse to keep the cereal box around FOREVER!)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Truth About Stripey

My 13-year-old kitty, Leo, has been battling an inoperable jaw tumor for almost seven months now. With cat on my brain, I've had more than my fair share of pet conversations lately.

A couple months ago, my sister, Javadudess, and I were reminiscing about the various domesticated animals of our youth. We were both a little vague on our first -- a little female cat named "Stripey" (whose name illustrates the danger of letting young children name your pet.)

Stripey joined our family sometime during the years my sister and I were in grade school.

She wasn't with us all that long -- but on the "Why?" our memories failed us. Javadudess thought Stripey had had a flea problem, and I recalled something along the lines of recurrent urinary tract infections.

Regardless, we both believed that there had been some sort of health issue that ultimately led to little Stripey's mysterious removal from our household, and most likely a trip back to the SPCA (insert funeral march here.)

Recently, our parents were visiting my house.

Since my brother, The Boy Who Knows Everything, and his family weren't present to defend themselves, talk naturally turned to suggestions as to how they should run their lives.

Dad: I think (The Boy Who Knows Everything)'s family should get a dog.

Me: Why not a cat? They're so much easier to take care of.

Dad: I've never really felt the same about cats since I saw Stripey eating the babies.

Me (puzzled): You mean rabbit babies?

(Note: Among our menagerie of childhood pets had been a puppy that ate rabbits -- which became glaringly apparent when he regurgitated the fur on the family room rug. A special memory of my youth.)

Dad: No. Her dead babies.

Me: What? Stripey had babies?

Dad: Yeah, they were born dead...and I guess it was instinct or something, but I found her eating them. She had one of the babies' heads in her mouth when I saw's hard to forget something like that...

Me: I didn't know anything about that! You guys didn't tell us...

Dad: I might not have told anyone. It was pretty upsetting.
Well, as bad as I felt for Stripey (and her babies) at least the quick return to the SPCA finally made sense.

The moral of this sorry tale: Spay and neuter your pets, lest they suffer Stripey's fate!

(Oh, and enjoy your dinner...)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Cutting to the Chase

I spent Friday evening becoming an expert in ball rod assemblies -- and how was your weekend?

(Okay, now I will cut to the chase instead of making you sit through a wordy piece explaining what I meant by my opening sentence.

Even though it would have been a uplifting, yet cautionary, tale of the evils of procrastination...balancing the satisfaction of successful do-it-yourselfing with the regret of this-was-so-freakin'-easy-why-didn't-I-fix-this a long time ago.

But it would have been all subterfuge -- when the true purpose of my piece would have solely to throw the term
"BALL ROD ASSEMBLY" out into the blogosphere.

Because on some purely juvenile level, I find
"BALL ROD ASSEMBLY" humorous. Maybe my testosterone levels rose with the home repair, thereby affecting my sense of humor....

Have you noticed that even my cutting to the chase is wordy?)

So...okay...despite it's double-entendre phraseology, a BALL ROD ASSEMBLY is a simply a part that connects a sink's drain plug to the lever that makes it go up and down.

And on Friday, I replaced three sinks' broken BALL ROD ASSEMBLIES with three brand-spankin'-new BALL ROD ASSEMBLIES.

And I even had a couple of BALLS left over.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Mike Douglas and Me

You may have read that TV variety show host Mike Douglas passed away on Friday. It probably meant little or nothing to you, but for me...well, it brought back a flood of memories.

I made my first appearance on The Mike Douglas Show when I was about seven years old. Many more appearances would follow.

No, I wasn't some sort of a child prodigy (well, at least that wasn't why I was on television ;) I was simply a member of the studio audience.

In what may have been the first year that the show was taped in Philadelphia, I was in the audience with my mom. About seven years old. I remember sitting on a folding chair on the middle aisle. As the show wrapped up, I suddenly realized Mike was crouched next to me, pointing up at the monitor hanging over the audience. I was on TV!

(Okay, remember this was back in the 60s when being on TV was still a novelty.)

Fast forward a few years...As I entered my teens I would periodically send away for tickets to the show and we would make the daunting journey into the Big City from our home in rural Chester County.

I eventually took to making signs along the lines of "We Love You Mike" punctuated with his trademark six-petal flower, which we would hold up at the end of the show (um, yes, I was a geek even then) in an effort to get on camera. (It always worked, btw.)

Among my Mike Douglas Show memories: an encounter with Roger Moore (may have been 7/9/73 - has him appearing on that date - which is right around the time that he took over the 007 franchise.)

We met him quite by accident as he left the KYW-TV studios after the show, and my mom had her picture taken with him.

I wish I had it here to scan - it's quite the snapshot. Even though Roger was effectively ancient to my tween eyes, he was still quite the dashing figure. Very James Bond -- golden tan, smoking a cigar, and more than able to pull off wearing a white safari-style jacket.

Another memorable appearance was Yes-man Rick Wakeman. Honestly, I didn't know who he was -- I was deeply in love with Donny Osmond at the time. But Rick was wearing a cape and that was enough for me. I think he may have been playing a Mellotron on the show. Some spacey/cool keyboard set-up anyway.

Not the Mike Douglas show -- but the cape nonetheless!

During a commercial break after his performance, my uncle encouraged me to join a group of fans getting Rick's autograph, saying that he was really Someone Big. Whether history confirms or denies that...well, you be the judge.

(Imagine the autograph scanned here, if I could find my old autograph book, which I know is somewhere around here. Somewhere.)

I remember being there when a man named John DeLorean showed off a prototype of a cool gull-winged car in the center of the Mike Douglas stage...

...Ralph Nadar, Stiller and Meara...gosh, I can't even begin to recall everyone I saw live on that stage.

One time I brought a camera. Typical of the 90-minute MD Show, quite the varied lineup. It was probably 1975; definitely a magnificent 110 camera used, as the picture quality shows.

Even with the grainy photos, you can still feel the groovy 70's Flower Power vibe!

Mike Douglas in the left foreground during a break -
how 'bout that set?!

The Pointer Sisters

Cooking with Worms
L to R: David Brenner, Harry Chapin, Mike Douglas, unknown.
The show website has David Brenner appearing on 4/24/75, so it could be this show.

Harry Chapin

Which leads me to the biggest moment in my blossoming TV career since my grade-school-aged appearance: My sister and I were one of a handful of teens (I'm sure there were only a handful of teens in the entire audience!) chosen to sit on the stage floor around Harry Chapin as he played another tune.

Harry Chapin and the audience teens.
The arrow points to what I think is my head.
David Brenner and Mike are sitting off on the right.

This was all in the days before VCRs graced every home. So I have no record of any of my landmark appearances. (Yes, that makes me officially too old to be a blogger. But I am remarkably well-preserved -- probably due my lifelong consumption of processed foods.)

Sure, Mike could be corny and the quality of the show's guests was wildly uneven. But this show was as big as it got in Philly, baby. And my multiple visits to the show's set were probably the reason I chose to study television production in college (which of course meant I actually ended up working in radio.)

By all accounts, Mike Douglas was quite a decent and upstanding guy -- a family man, married for 53 years.

Plus, he was the singing voice of Prince Charming in Walt Disney's Cinderella. I mean, really, that ought to count for something.

If I still had my 70's flower power homemade sign, I'd be holding it up right now. (Well, mentally, anyway. It'd probably be really musty at this point.)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

More Deep Thoughts

Warning: Kid Stories Ahead, Proceed At Your Own Risk...

My 6 (and 3/4 -- we can't forget the fraction!) year-old likes to talk. Alot. But evidently she also does quite a bit of deep thinking.

My Little Miss Deep Thinker specializes in the non sequitur. For example, the following conversation took place in the bathroom. Out of nowhere.

LMDT: "Does god have a last name?"

Me: "No -- he doesn't need one." I'm about to say, "Like Cher or Beyonce..." (But is god bootylicious?)

LMDT (interrupting): "'Cause, if he did have one, he would have the very first last name in, like, the history of the world!"

A few days later, in the car, LMDT asks:

"Do caterpillars have toes?"

I have to admit that I actually hesitated for a second on that -- I was picturing the Cootie Bug toy, which indeed does have toes.

And entomology isn't my specialty. (I specialize in Entenmannology -- sorry, couldn't resist -- I'm craving a raspberry danish twist.)

Maybe caterpillars have little suction thingies that could be interpreted as toes...hmmm...

But I stray from my point. Which is, "Why?" What prompted her to ask me about god's name and caterpillar toes out of the blue?

Maybe the why doesn't matter. Maybe it's just enough to be the expert who holds all the answers to her questions about everything in the universe, and beyond.

At least for a couple more years.

Another car ride found me imparting wisdom about something or other from my youth:

Me: "...That was a long time ago - in the 1970s..."

LMDT: "You grew up in the Groovy Times?!"

Yeah, I'm nothing if not groovy.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Taste Testin'

If you've memorized my blog posts, as is required of all regular readers, you know that my Highly Esteemed Husband and I had a nasty experience with hazelnut iced coffee at a local McD's a couple weeks ago.

I couldn't believe my beloved McDonald's would intentionally create a drink so heinous. It seemed only fair to give the fast food purveyor another chance.

Strictly for research purposes. It had nothing to do with my affection for caffeine or the two coupons for free iced coffee we had scored at work. Plus, think of Ronald. It ain't easy being a clown nowadays. Those giant shoes aren't gettin' any cheaper. We needed to restore his good name.

Since all legitimate research is based on a hypothesis, here is mine:

As it pertains to the sense of taste, the negative reaction to the initial caffeinated sampling was not indicative of the innate and essential properties of the signature beverage in its properly configured proportions and was instead the byproduct of operator error.

In other words, the confused BigMacista working the counter during our previous visit had f*ed up our hazelnut coffee drinks.

All systems were go on Monday for the re-tasting. Husband had the day off. Children were safely deposited at camp. And we in our car hurtling (actually pre-caffeine it's more like moseying) towards our favorite McD's.

I don't know if it's an indictment on suburbia that we have four McDonald's within a 15 minute drive of our house, or an indictment of the sorry state of our children's' diets that we have a "favorite" among the available Golden Arches. But we do, and soon enough we were there.

Having sworn off hazelnut flavoring for the rest of our lives after our earlier traumatic experience, we ordered one regular iced coffee and one "vanilla."

And they were good. Not Starbucks Frappuccino good, but a solid B good. Actually, they were free, so that warrants a B+ at least.

Therefore, our testing confirmed the hypothesis, in that it strongly suggests the revolting mega-sweetness of our initial experience was the result of a counter person who was very, very confused.

Whereas this time our waitperson seemed familiar with the recipe. Although strangely, the "vanilla" flavored version actually tasted more coffee-ish than the simple coffee version. There seems to be some estimation in the process that allows for variation (which all seems strangely un-McDonald's to me.)

Some sort of cream goo (technical term) gets squirted in, and I suppose that goo is plain coffee version was lighter than the husband's vanilla, so it must have accidentally had more of that cream junk.

Anyway, we had a lovely breakfast, perched at a Mickey D's cafe table. Our iced coffee washed down a couple of sausage sandwich breakfasts. McDonald's also happily provided reading material -- the calorie counts and nutritional information listed on the back of the paper tray-liner.

Look at all the fat and sodium! Enjoy your meal!

Somehow though, the nutritional awareness made my sausage and egg biscuit sandwich feel very naughty, and I savored every bite (blame twelve years of Catholic school for that twisted logic.)

Then we were off, icy remains of coffee beverage in hand, to do some shopping at Target and Old Navy.

Damn! We are such jetsetters.

Now, just one of you dare say our lives aren't exciting as hell.