October 2011 Archives

The Nebraska State Historical Society has some wonderful photos taken of children and adults who are in attendance at various Halloween gatherings and parties. Because the state has a wide range of immigrant influences, European traditions regarding Halloween have often been localized cultural events. Of course, the traditions had to adjust a bit, as well. The pumpkin, for instance, replaced the English turnip as the gourd of choice when carving a jack-o-lantern. A lot of credit for Halloween’s popularity goes to the Irish.

Nebraska History Blog
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The aniversary sink

For quite some time, I've been disgusted with the on-faucet water filters (Pur, Brita, etc.) that we've used. They always start to leak about a week after you buy them, and I'd estimate that we've bought and thrown away at least ten of them in the last three years or so. A couple of weeks ago, there was a failure of a different sort. I installed yet another new faucet filter and found that the spout on the faucet itself had failed. When the filter was engaged, the faucet turned into a sprinkler. I fixed it with duct tape, but I hatched a new plan.

The problem with plumbing makeovers is that they usually involve starting a project only to have ten ancillary problems crop up— touch one thing, and other things break. When I opened the cabinet under the sink, I was horrified to find that there weren't even any water shut-off valves there. To fix the faucet, I would have to shut off the water to the house. Another issue with faucet replacement is that they sometimes refuse to come off the old sink, and laying on your back stuffed into a small hole does not encourage calm contemplation of stubborn nuts. Last time I did one of these projects (for my mother) I ended up removing the sink from the counter so that I could get the damn faucet off.

Digression: My second vocation (after darkroom worker for a string of photographers) was a night-shift plumbing salesman. I worked my up to plumbing manager under the tutelage of a couple of retired plumbers. I liked it, because you could enjoy the fun part of the job— troubleshooting and solving problems— without ever crawling under a sink or smashing your knuckles. Eventually, I worked my way up to assistant manager of the hardware store until I was fired one Christmas eve... but that's another story.

I wanted to be smart about this little problem. Why not just replace the works? It was all original equipment on this forty-five-year-old house. I hated the sink, but without redoing the cabinets the options were limited. I located a deeper stainless sink though, and it was only around $140. The farmhouse sink will have to wait for another day.

A new single control faucet with pull-out sprayer (perfect for when I get around to that undermount farmhouse setup) was only about $80. What surprised me though, was that the silly drinking water faucet (that I could hook up to an undercounter water filter) was almost as much. There are cheaper ones available, but I hate crawling under counters so I wanted brass instead of plastic. The most expensive part to be replaced though, was the garbage disposal.

At first I thought I would just reuse the old Kitchen Aid disposal, but Krista was really taken by the POS display for the new quiet Insinkerator disposals. I always had great luck selling the "badger" disposals (the lower line), but when I looked at the Amazon reviews it seems as if the newer versions get far more mixed reviews. The new double-chamber sound insulated ones get raves, though. So I bought one. It was only a little splurge I guess.* Good thing though, because the old disposal was some sort of snap-lock arrangement that I still haven't figured out how to disconnect from the old sink.

With new valves and such, the total for the whole job came to about $600. You can hardly hear the disposal with your head next to it. As an interesting side-benefit, it even quieted down the dishwasher. The job went off with only a couple of hitches. First, plastic and brass fittings just don't like working together. I had to adapt from 3/8 to 1/4 for the drinking water faucet and the brass coupling leaked severely until I switched to plastic ferrules. Then, I discovered that I had left out a washer for for the spray hose causing it to leak when the sprayer was activated.

It was a mystery to me how I overlooked this. There was much cussing and crawling on my back to locate the barely visible problem area. Naturally, it was now after five pm, when I should have been going out to dinner with my lovely wife on our ninth anniversary (of our first date, not our marriage— we tend to celebrate this moment more). I had to go to a hardware store because I just couldn't bear the thought of spending the night sinkless.

I met up with a nice former plumber who helped me troubleshoot the problem. Naturally, this washer was a totally non-standard part which was different on every faucet. He suggested using an o-ring of the approximate size of the connection. His solution worked, and we ordered pizza for our anniversary dinner.

Last night, the night after, Krista pulled a package from our bed riddled with teeth marks. "Was this what you were looking for?"

The missing part          Uh, yeah.

The culprit.

* It might be surprising to some that deaf people are remarkably picky about sound. Extraneous noises like garbage disposals are amplified by hearing aids, making it really difficult to communicate over them.

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Stumbled on this video and article. Haven't been over that way yet, and might just have to. The arc seems familiar. The same thing has happened to me: reevaluating one's relationship to life with the passing of a parent. When you live facing up to death around you, which I have for the past decade or so, it changes you in drastic ways. Some things just don't seem quite as important as they used to. Other things, forgotten things, become far more serious.

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Salmon River Falls

Salmon River Falls
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