Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spectacular End To a Nice Weekend

As I'm writing this, there is a thunderstorm going on. Since thunderstorms in our little corner of New Hampshire so often bring power outages, I'll keep this entry short to make sure I get it in. But the wet weather held off nicely for our holiday weekend, which had the rare and wonderful bonus of Karen having most of it at home with us.

The weekend included kayaking, swimming, some fun food (including homemade cinnamon rolls by Tom), and some gardening. There was even some singing and guitar playing by the fire in the front yard.

One of the kayak trips included just me and Daniel. We went all the way from our house (we're not on the pond, but our next door neighbor has graciously given us permission to launch from his shoreline), to the north end of the pond, which is about three-quarters of a mile in each direction. Danny was tuckered out by the end of the ride, but he pressed on until we got home. It's good to see how well he's getting along with the kayak; his steering is still a bit shaky, but he gets where he's going.

There are only a few weeks left of school, and only a few weeks left of my scanning job (which often coincides with the school calendar, conveniently, since there's no way we could afford full-time daycare on what I make there). Starting mid-June we'll be plunging into our Summer routine, with fun trips whenever Karen gets time off, home activities the rest of the time, and as much income-producing work as I can squeeze into the gaps.

It should be an interesting Summer. I'll do my best to give you a ringside seat.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A Medical Test We're Actually Looking Forward To!

This week, Danny is getting an EEG to monitor the progress of his seizures. Not because they've gotten worse, but because they haven't recurred at all in about two years, despite an increase in his body weight with no increase in the dosage of his medication. This is good news. Depending on the outcome of the EEG, Danny may be able to stop taking his medication in the near future.

In other news, the dryer is fixed, and so we are playing catch-up with laundry, which when you are a family of five is a lot of washing and drying. In addition to discovering the expense of laundromats, I also made a couple of other discoveries in my repair adventure.

One is that the inside of a dryer is filthy! The lint gets everywhere it's not supposed to be. The more places I looked, the more places I found where lint and dirt and the things that fall out of kids' pockets can get our of the drum and into the rest of the dryer. I'm going to make a habit of cleaning the inside of that machine every six months or so.

Another thing I discovered is that service manuals are written for people who don't really need them. For the rest of us, it is a labyrinth of cross-referencing steps that aren't actually cross-referenced. For example, to remove the drum, you have to remove the front panel, and the manual tells you just that. But it doesn't tell you how to remove the front panel unless you go back to the table of contents (no index) and find the page that tells you how to take off the front panel. How do you take off the front panel? Easy, you just take off the control panel, exposing the screws for the front panel. How do you remove the control panel? Back to the table of contents.

But I did get it apart, and back together again (the part came the very next day from an online dealer in Albany, NY). At first the dryer started as soon as I put the plug in the wall, which should never happen. That turned out to be a foreign substance in the button that starts the dryer. When I blew that out, everything worked just the way it's supposed to. No one was more surprised than me.

I will report on the outcome of Danny's EEG sometime in early June. And if anything else interesting happens, as it's sure to with the Brooks Bunch, you find it here.

If I can find the time.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Reluctant Repairman

A few days ago, I discovered that our clothes dryer wasn't drying clothes. The drum was turning, and the blower was blowing, but all it was blowing was cold air. There was a time, not long ago, when my solution to this problem would have been simple: call the repairman. But these tough times make that solution a last resort.

Our dryer is part of a so-called "laundry center" (which most appliance people just call an apartment stack), a washer and dryer in one tall unit. A little online research pointed to the dryer's failure being an electrical problem. Me, knowing a little something about electricity, figured that I could probably handle that. A quick look at the electrical diagram revealed about six different failures that could turn off the heat without turning off the turning, so to speak.

The first three involved house wiring and the power cord. I've been working with house wiring and power cords since I was around William's age, so I felt very comfortable there. I tested the breakers, the line voltage, and checked the power connection. Everything was fine. I had mixed feelings about that, because it was all my work, and it was comforting to know that it was all working well, but on the other hand, any of those would have been easy for me to fix.

The other three failure points all required some measure of laundry center disassembly to check. Fortunately (or unfortunately, since it took away my excuse for just calling an expert), I found a complete service manual online. I love the Internet.

I had to take apart a lot of stuff, but I finally found the problem, as soon as I looked at it: a burned out heating element, visibly broken in one spot. I've ordered the part and should be putting it all back together in a few days. With manual in hand, I've confident that I can do a proper job of it, and have the dryer back to work for the weekend. Albeit slowly.

Although it's satisfying to be able to do these things, it's also annoying not to be able to call in a pro when I need to and just get on with my own work, which, when I'm not doing time scanning tests, consists of trying to jumpstart Karen's craft business, and creating writing and video that, we are hoping, will give us little bits of royalty income down the line.

But until any of these things starts generating cash, here I am, screwdriver in hand, trying to keep my major appliances running.

As an aside, another thing I found out while the dryer was on the fritz, is that laundromats have become incredibly expensive. I took three loads of the clothing we needed most into town and my pockets were about twelve bucks lighter by the time I was done. Which makes repairing the dryer one great bargain.

Even if I did have to do it myself.