There are Days (Follow Up)

It’s been a couple of weeks since my Sears refrigerator has been repaired. Apparently, it’s going to work for a while. I bought a gauge from Walmart that is designed to display the temperature of a remote sensor along with the temperature of the base unit. It has been reflecting the set temperatures since its installation. That’s great news. The emergency is over and it looks like we’re back to normal.

Now I have to review the situation and make sure that all the rash things that I said when the failure first happened are fair. I’m a scientific Skeptic and would like to think that I judge things fairly. In my first “There are Days” blog article I said, “Don’t Buy Sears or LG Refrigerators.” The emergency is over and I want to review what I said. Do I mean it now that the storm has passed?

Yes and no. I’ll probably buy from Sears again. After all, it was their team that came through with the replacement parts when other appliance repair shops wouldn’t consider attempting a repair once they found out that the box came from LG. However, I’m going to be quite a bit more careful and look into the original manufacturer. I found out that there are two brands of refrigerators that should be avoided. They are LG and Samsung and both for the same reason. The information I read stated that while the boxes are not more likely to fail they are troublesome to repair because of the lack of an adequate infrastructure. In my sample of one, I had 100 percent failure but I can’t know for certain what the overall failure rate actually is because…well…I have a sample of one. One would have to know the total number of LG boxes sold by Sears and the percentage of those that failed to get any meaningful statistics on the matter. Perhaps Consumer’s Union has those numbers and used them to base their high recommendation. Perhaps, but I still will not base my future purchases of durable goods based solely on their recommendations. I’ll also look past their main article to the user comments. I neglected to do that and while I realize that the user comments are part of a self-selected data set of bad experiences, I might consider a high number of poor reviews as significant enough to consider the Consumer Unions positive recommendation.

By the way, Sears sells fancy refrigerators from other manufacturers and the repairmen I’ve talked to say that they see lots of LG and Samsung boxes but very few GEs but don’t take advice from a blog…

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Labor Day 2017

Today is Labor Day. It is the traditional end of summer and a chance to escape from reality, apparently. In Atlanta Georgia people attend Dragon Con and dress up in fictional characters. Then there is Burning Man. It is near the west coast in the desert of Nevada where another group of people create an art filed community. People barter and sometimes wear no clothes at all.

I missed both this year like I do every year. While both sound fun, I can’t seem to get up the motivation. Neither one is a perfect fit. I’m afraid I’d be odd man out most of the time. As far as Dragon Con is concerned, I enjoy science fiction but probably not as much as most of the attendees and the crowd at Burning Man is a bit younger. I might be getting too old to attend that event but as I write this, I’m reminded that I didn’t report on the one national event that I did attend—The Bay Area Maker Faire.

Currently, my best fit is the Maker Faire Community. Nancy and I traveled to the Maker Faire in San Mateo this year. We had a great time and I felt quite comfortable there. We met up with an old friend, saw amazing things, and had the opportunity to give away one of my tin can robots to the R2D2 builders group.

Of course my pathetic little R2 looked small compared to their highly detailed full sized models but they put it on display front and center.

We took an Amtrak train to San Jose and didn’t rent a car. We relied on public transportation the entire time we were there and managed to walk 54 miles in the week we spent there. We saw the Exploratorium in San Francisco, ate a Crab Louise in a restaurant overlooking Alcatraz, saw a movie, and visited my old home in Santa Clara.

Now it’s the end of summer. Labor Day is over and Halloween is 56 days away. It’s time to bring in the flag and make plans for the rest of the year.

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The Mother of All Bad Ideas

I took a stroll out on my favorite path yesterday. In an effort to keep myself fit (and sane) I try and walk four miles per day. Lately, I’ve settled on a path that runs around the whole of Tucson. It’s called The Loop. Mainly it is a bicycle path but it’s also for pedestrians. It has the advantage of being away from vehicular traffic. It is well maintained and I particularly like the fact that it has trash cans located along the path. Yesterday, I took my normal four mile walk…or I thought I’d take my normal walk along my favorite path when I found a bathroom Dixie cup rolling around on the trail. Then there was another, then another. I had to duck through a fence to fetch the errant cups. Some of the refuse had blown into the wash. Recently, my walks along my favorite path have involved very little trash. I carry a folded plastic bag in my cargo shorts that I normally don’t have to employ but that day it was obvious that the bag was needed. As I ducked and snatched the ever increasing items of litter along the way, I noticed that one of them had a tag. It said, “Take Me, You Found Free Art -Keep It – Pass it on -Leave it here.” There was an email attached: smithme@vailschooldistrict.org . Also a note said “This is a piece of found art – A gift for you. Please let us know where you found it by writing to:” then there was the email address. I collected all the crap along the trail and it filled a very large plastic bag. Some of the refuse had another email address: andersonch@vailschooldistrict.org. I wrote them a note telling them that encouraging littering was a very bad idea and that I’d be returning their “art” to the Mesquite Elementary School. The response I received was very unapologetic. In fact, the note I received was very close to insulting. The proper response should have been an apology and the promise not to do it again. Instead, I got something to the effect that they’d continue to teach their kids to be “kind and giving.”

WOW! Now please understand that I clean the paths around that school daily just because it’s the right thing to do. If there is anyone being kind and generous it is the retired guy that chooses to spend his time helping out the community by picking up litter in his neighborhood. The school teacher that goes by the name of “Daisy” owes me and the community an apology and she needs to stop encouraging her students to litter the pathways in my neighborhood.

Here is how she responded to me after I returned her “abandoned art:”

“Thank you for returning our art, even in the manner that you did. We have learned an important lesson though not the lesson you intended. I will continue to encourage the children to be kind and giving.”

Hey I have an idea, how about you encouraging the children to NOT LITTER?

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Halloween Prep: Sorbet to Cleanse the Palate

It’s back to the workshop and I couldn’t be happier. Years ago right after retirement, I drew up plans for a workshop. It is 12 x 24 feet, attached to the house, and finished so that it matches complete with cement tiles and stucco siding. There are French doors on both ends—one set opens to the front yard and the other opens to the back yard. There are no windows. Instead there are two 3×4 foot skylights. Sitting next to the holes in the ceiling are two 4 bulb high pressure fluorescent light fixtures that provide lighting when the skylights can’t. A large number of wall sockets are scattered around the workspace 4 foot from the floor. Most important for a Tucson based workshop is the 220V AC/Heat unit mounted high on the wall.

What a wonderful place for a Maker with only 62 days left until Halloween!

My first new props for this year’s Halloween display are six black owls. They came from Amazon a few days ago—cheap and ugly. The eyes were not much more that glass tacks. The beaks were black and smashed against the face. Some of the feet were loose and uneven. This would never do, of course. I transformed one with a couple of LEDs, painting and remounting the beaks and feet. My first prototype took some effort and time. The second went quicker and I was ready to batch process the remaining four.

Halloween is a holiday for Makers. Nothing works right out of the box and even if it did, what fun would that be? With a foam cutter, soldering iron, and glue gun warming up on the bench, it is incredibly easy to forget about everything else. The most pressing problem for a while becomes how to attach the third hand device so that the other two hands can make a durable solder joint.

The precious building time isn’t free however. Without proper preparation, building time can be interrupted by trips for supplies if they are available locally. Sometimes getting necessary supplies can take days especially if they must be ordered. Preparation begins early in the year. General supplies like LEDs or other electronic components are usually bought in bulk and on-sale. Surplus houses often have a wide variety of useful stuff but you can’t guarantee that it will be always readily available. So FedEx, USPS, and UPS trucks often visit my house throughout the year and stuff starts to stack up. Regular readers of this blog know that I built a storage rack for Camp Quest. It sure came in handy for all the raw materials but it got full. So…I made a second one. Problem solved!

Finally, I was able to sit down and concentrate. The resulting owls may be part of a computerized display or they may be placed in random locations. I haven’t decided yet but they’re cool and I’m ready to move on to more challenging builds.

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A Day That Will Live in Insanity

We are indeed living in “interesting times!”

The President pardoned Sheriff Arpaio. The sheriff now says that his political career isn’t over. Apparently, we’ll have more opportunities to see this xenophobic, sadist violate human rights, oh goody. Lest we not forget a judge found Sheriff Arpaio guilty. Once that happened, his guilt or innocence is not any longer a matter of opinion. It is a matter of law. He was convicted of judicial contempt. The president says that he believes that Sheriff Joe was “doing his job” when he racially profiled U.S. citizens and illegally detained them without charges but I believe that Judge Susan Bolton doing her job.

All of that is bad enough but we were told of this travesty of justice the very day that one of the deadliest storms we’ve seen in a while, Hurricane Harvey, is bearing down on the coast of Texas. The Washington Post is currently reporting that at least nine people are dead and 300,000 people are without power. A Category 4 hurricane is hard to ignore, very newsworthy.

The President doesn’t like “sharing the spotlight.” Could it be that Sheriff Joe just benefited from Mother Nature’s timing? Did Hurricane Harvey move up the date of Sheriff Joe’s pardon? No one knows really.

I’m sitting here hoping for impeachment. Now I know how the religious folks feel when they are awaiting the apocalypse.

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OK, Life is Chill—For a While

Normalcy returns. Yesterday, the Sears repair technician came to the house with a new compressor for my Kenmore Elite (LG) refrigerator. He left a mere 3 hours later and my behemoth stainless steel kitchen decoration has the potential once again to be a useful appliance. Of course, it won’t be fully graduated to that status until the ice maker bin is once again full of those half-moon shaped gems that make life in the Arizona Desert bearable. Tony, the very courteous and understanding Sears technician sublimated my pure hatred of anything from Sears and anything made in Korea into now guarded optimism that, at least for a time, life in the Lacey house can resume as before.

All is NOT forgiven, however. A few questions remain. Why did consumer reports top rate the Sears Kenmore Elite refrigerator made by LG? Why didn’t I skip past the glowing review and down into the user comments? Why does it take three days to have someone come to the house and another 6 to bring back the required parts?

Oh well…Those questions will have to wait. The Halloween popup stores opened up in Tucson last weekend and Safeway is selling candy in bins decorated with Frankenstein’s Monster. Nancy and I are headed out to South Carolina to participate in the annual American Atheists Convention. We’re taking our solar eclipse sunglasses that we bought in April and join with all the other attendees as we pray for clear skies.

Since spring, we’ve had one major event per month. In May, we went to the Maker’s Faire. Camp Quest AZ was in June, During August, we travelled to Atlanta Georgia for the International Aerial Robotics Competition. September was going to be a month without a major event but that changed when I was honored to be asked to host a comedy showcase for AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). For those interested, I’ll be the Master of Ceremonies on the 17th of September at the Flycatcher in downtown Tucson starting at 8 PM.

I’ll round out the year with a Halloween party on the 30th of October, the Camp Quest Leadership Summit in November, and Winter Solstice in December. That is “another year in the life of a retired person.”

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There Are Days—Don’t Buy Sears or LG Refrigerators

Generally, my life is great and I really don’t have much to complain about. However, my contentment seems overly fragile at times. Today, I’m between big events and commitments. It’s a great time to binge watch TV and expand the available recording space on the DVR. I’m sipping on beers left over from previous parties. Then Nancy tells me that the refrigerator has stopped making ice. “OK, I’ll look at it,” I tell her. Then I’m just about to order replacement parts when she says, “The refrigerator is warm too.” More trouble shooting and I determine that the freezer is working fine but the refrigerator is warmer than it should be. Also, there is probably nothing wrong with the ice maker. We bought the refrigerator last year with great fanfare. It was a huge fancy beast—the best that Sears had to offer—a Kenmore Elite. It cost 3 thousand dollars and it was replacing our previous Maytag that we had for 16 years. Surely, this would be the last refrigerator that we’ll need to buy in our lifetimes. It’s only a year and a half old and now the refrigerator is not cooling as it should. Now my life is not quite as good as it was. Now, I have to think about something that I thought I wouldn’t have to think about ever again. I did what I could and reached out for help. There is a local appliance repairman that we’ve used in the past. He asked about the model number and told me that he couldn’t help with this fancy machine. He wasn’t equipped to fix it. He did recommend someone else who also thought it was not something that he could handle. So I had to call Sears Appliance Repair…

Angelica at Sears Appliance Repair didn’t speak very good English and the phone connection was bad. It turns out that she works at a national call center. I wonder if the call center is anywhere near the Continental United States. She seemed more interested in selling me house improvements than helping me with my broken appliance. Finally, we go down to business and asked if I wanted an appointment in two days or three. I say, “The soonest, of course.”

Today, the repairman shows up and tells me that the compressor is bad. He can come back in five days, if he can find the part. The part is covered under warranty but the labor ($500) is not.

Don’t buy LG refrigerators, folks. I didn’t know I was buying an LG refrigerator when I bought the Kenmore Elite and now I know that they are junk. The failure rate is astronomical and the repair shop can’t keep the parts in stock.

For the next five days, we’ll be living our life without a refrigerator and eating what we can before it spoils. Thanks to Sears and LG.

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