Kludge: how to repair paint scratches with nail polish

This information wasn't on the Internet, so I'm putting it there.  Our blue Samsung washer and dryer were badly scratched during the move, and the original color isn't available.  So I blended three colors of nail polish together to match the bastards.  Good thing I painted all those tiny orc figurines in my D&D-playing days!
The washer and dryer are a pretty odd color, a grayish metallic blue.  My first thought was that it must be an automobile paint, but Samsung doesn't offer touch-up paint for it.  Alice suggested we try nail polish.  So I asked her to go to the store and get several colors that were close to her recollection of the appliances.  Out of the six she came back with, I used these:
Here's the color names, just in case you're reading this post because you are actually trying to repair a scratched Samsung WF363BTBEUF washer or DV363EWBEUF dryer:
I mixed four parts metallic blue, one part metallic light purple, and one part nonmetallic dark purple.  Where's a good place to mix nail polish?  On the bottom of a glass jar from the recycling bin, that's where.  I used a small craft paintbrush to mix and apply the polish.  A smaller paintbrush would have allowed me to do a neater job.

Here's the results, with and without camera flash.  The left end of this scratch has been repaired:
The mixed color is so close, it might be hard for you to see the repaired part.  I was pretty pleased, considering that the scratches go all the way to the metal.

Take the matter into your own hands, folks.  Fix your stuff!

DIY Pipe Shelves

We've built a shelving unit in our kitchen out of plumbing pipes.  As you might imagine, it's very strong, which is good because we have a lot of cookbooks.  Alice had seen it done elsewhere, and we couldn't find a prefab bookcase for the space, so we decided to modify the design and give it a try.

We pretty much cleaned out our local Lowe's and Home Depot of 3/4" black pipe tees, flanges, and nipples.  (Tell your inner 10-year-old that a nipple, in this context, is a short length of pipe with threads on both ends.)  The pipe and fittings came to over $300, and the wood and stain came to another $100 or so.  Not cheap, but it would probably survive a tornado.

Black pipe comes with a film of greasy grime all over it, so the project began with an hour or so of scrubbing with Goo Gone.  After that we could handle the parts without looking like we'd robbed a bank.  Here are the two uprights mostly assembled:
Standard practice with black pipe is to put Teflon tape on the threads before assembly to make a good seal.  I did that here even though these pipes obviously don't need to hold pressure; I wanted it to be easy to disassemble and adjust.

I had to make a lot of things happen:  the uprights couldn't look bent or crooked even though there are fourteen joints from top to bottom; the tees all had to point in the same direction; and the flanges (that's the flat round things) all had to touch the wall at the same time.  And to make that more complicated, the walls of this 100-year-old house ain't flat.  Yet here they are, mounted:
Yes, we plan to leave some empty space on that middle shelf so we can reach the light switch.

The left upright luckily was fastened directly to a stud, so it's not going anywhere.  With the right one, I thought 28 drywall screws would hold it in place, but the matchy-matchy black-headed drywall screws I bought are too thick and tend to strip their holes, so they don't have much holding power.  I used some plastic wall anchors and some Molly bolts to secure each flange and it's as strong as the other.

My pride was tempered with dismay when I noticed that the shelves were going to be way off level.  Of course the floor isn't level (duh) but the weird thing is that the left upright is longer than the right one.  I must not have tightened the left one's joints as many turns as the right one.  Oh well:  they go from leaning to the left at the bottom to perfectly level in the middle to leaning to the right at the top.  I'll shim them.  It could be worse.

Meanwhile Alice honed her staining skills on the shelves.  I had bought two 10' 1"x8" boards of southern yellow pine, which I cut into eight 30" shelf lengths.  Alice then sanded them and applied some kind of stinky hydrocarbon pretreatment the store had sold her to prep the surface for stain.  The stain went on pretty evenly and it actually almost matches our cabinets.  Here they are, stained and waiting for polyurethane:
I wasn't thrilled with the unevenness of the spray polyurethane, but it's not like the shelves are going to be outdoors.  Here's the whole assembly:
And finally, below, with cookbooks.  We used to have about twice this many but we edited the library down pretty severely before moving.

A day in the life: installing a garbage disposal

Yesterday I installed a garbage disposal in our house.  This is just one of the projects that have been filling my weekends, and which I somehow usually fail to document properly.  This time I got pictures.

A proper "before" picture should have showed the sink with no electrical service under it.  The first step in this process was to bring in an electrician to install the wires and switch.  They're already here in this photo:

Step One of the instructions cheerfully said "disconnect the drain from the sink".  I had no idea how to do that, so I grabbed my largest wrench and started twisting things.  After a couple hours I had removed all the drain pipes that were in the way.  I had also replaced the "Y" pipe that the dishwasher was connected to (upper right) with a straight pipe, since the plan was to connect the dishwasher to the disposal.  Here's what it looked like after Step One:

The next major step was to connect the electrical.  That gray arc of wire housing in the cabinet was very stiff.  It was subtly incompatible with the hole in the disposal:  the hole was threaded and so was the cable housing.  Sounds good, right?  No:  if I turned the cable housing until it was tight and secure in the disposal, it'd be pointing the wrong way in the cabinet.  I had to leave it a little loose, which meant it was also free to swivel.  I secured it with the cable housing's nut on the inside of the disposal and moved on.

Physically mounting the disposal to the bottom of the sink was easier than I thought it would be.  The final time-consuming phase was rebuilding the drain pipes.  Again this was glossed over with a single step in the instructions.  I reused the parts, cutting many of the pipes shorter using a hacksaw.  I had to replace one seal/gasket that broke when I tried to clean the gunk off of it.  Here's the final result:

Careful observers will note that the tee on the right, where the drain from the disposal joins that from the other sink, is lower in the final arrangement.  I had to rebuild all that, twice, in order to get it to fit.

The result is the quietest garbage disposal I've ever used.  It's in InSinkErator "evolution space saver".  I happen to have a sound level meter here, so I measured how loud it is, with the meter at eye level, pointing upwards, one pace back from the sink.
  • Quiet house:  40dbA
  • Faucet on:  49dbA
  • Faucet and disposal on:  53dbA
The numbers changed quite a bit if I held the meter in different places, but the relative values were always about what I listed here.  It's pretty damn quiet.

Elapsed time:  six hours.  Trips to hardware store:  two, not counting the initial purchase.  Costs:  about $180 for the disposal, plus something like $100 or more for the electricians to put in the wiring, plus a few bucks for putty, drain pipes, and gaskets.


We've sold a home and not yet bought another, living in a holding pattern until we can move to where we belong.  We certainly don't belong in this apartment.  This purgatory does strange things to me.

I can sleep and eat (and even cook in a limited way) and drive to work, but the things that made my life mine are not here.  I can't put a record on the stereo, I can't shake up a mixed drink, I can't pull a book off the shelf and read.  All of that is on a truck parked in a nameless warehouse.  This is temporary lodging.  And that prevents me, in some subtle way, from starting to really live here in Durham.  I can't let myself move forward until I clear this final hurdle and get into the house that will be mine.

Alice and I were looking at live shows last night and bought tickets to see a band this weekend.  Why hadn't I done that already?  Do I not want to attach the memory of a live show to this apartment?  Do I want to avoid attaching any memories to this apartment - to avoid getting attached to it?  Maybe that's it.  It hurts to make a life in a place and then leave it.  Better to be temporary, to have a half-life, for a month than to really grab it and then have to tear myself away.

Reminiscences of Cleveland

  • When I found out what peanut butter tastes like on a hot dog, at the Happy Dog
  • The guy that comes to the Barking Spider with his cat on his shoulder
  • That time at the Beachland when the disco ball wasn't rotating, so somebody threw their coat at it and it swung crazily
  • When a teenager got chased by some bad guys and hid behind my garage freaking out and I asked him if I should call the police but he said no so we chilled until the coast was clear
  • Introducing British Brian to Anna C., two people who know everyone else in town but somehow not each other
  • The manic energy of the early days of the Cleveland Social Media Club
  • Getting hit on by a gay dude right outside my office on the way to my car
  • The bloody dolls hanging from the ceiling of the Grog Shop after halloween
  • Discovering Liefman's Goudenband at Brewzilla during Beer Week
  • The lawncare company that did twice as much work as we asked for, then tried to get us to pay twice the agreed price
  • The look of mixed loathing and shame on my hung-over friend's face the morning after my birthday party
  • A night flight into Hopkins making a sharp turn around downtown, a perfect view of the town lit up on one of my last trips back

One week until we move, and we're homeless

We had chosen a home in Durham, NC.  The contract was signed, we sold furniture that wouldn't fit in a place with fewer bedrooms, we sold our house and arranged movers.  But the movers will be putting our possessions into storage, not our new home.  We had to back out of the contract.

The house had the right location and enough space, and it was affordable.  It even had character:  reclaimed doors and wood countertops, and artist-made railings.  But the inspector told us that under the surface, it was a mess.  From the shingles to the foundation, there were major structural issues that would cause the house to leak, sag, shift, and crack unless it was repaired under the supervision of a structural engineer.

To move forward with buying the house, we would have had to delay the transaction by who knows how many months while the current owners fixed it.  If we trusted them to fix it.  That's a big if, because some of the issues were created during renovation.  That means the fixes would be made by the same team that left issues in the first place.  And our dealings with the seller's agent were far from smooth:  it would be a fight every step of the way.  So when the inspection report came back, there was no question.  We walked.

I confess I'm a little relieved.  The transaction was a moshpit of incompatible personalities from the beginning.  On the one side, we have my wife and I.  Normally she is assertive about standing up for what she deserves; I often let others get away with things in order to keep the peace.  The second party was our real estate agent, a conflict-avoidant personality like me.  On the third hand, we had the seller's agent who also acted as the general contractor.  This individual was a charismatic pitch-man (which is great for a salesman) and a bully (which is common in construction but less so in real estate agents).  Putting these personalities together resulted in the seller's agent lying through his teeth and browbeating our agent into submission.  Then our agent repeatedly tried to convince us we were wrong about what we had heard the seller's agent say he would do, didn't advocate for us, and complained that we were attacking her when we stood up for ourselves.  That was how it went.  Even before the inspection report, we had all but stopped speaking with our own agent.  So I'm glad I don't have to finish the transaction with those people.

Have you ever told someone that since they work for you, they should go along with your recollection of events - and then had them respond 'I never told you you were wrong'?  It's pretty surreal.

I exaggerate a bit when I say we're homeless.  There's an apartment we can stay in.  So many people travel to my company's worksite that they rented an apartment for visitors instead of putting traveler after traveler up in a hotel.  But it'll take a long time to identify another house, negotiate an offer, and close on it.  We'll be living out of suitcases for at least a month.  But we won't be homeless.  I'm thankful for the safety net.

When in China, eat Chinese food

Eschew the "Spaghetti Bolognaise".  Venture not unto the "Russian Bortsch".  And under no circumstances sample the "Cheese Burger".  But get the "Beef Brisket Noodles In Soup" for $10 and you'll eat it all and order it again later.

I didn't need to be reminded of this, really, but in the past the Baolilai has done a damn fine steak.  Not this time.  It was gristly and gelatinous - on the cool side of rare when I'd requested medium rare - and cost $34 for an 8oz cut.  The revolving buffet restaurant on the 24th floor has slipped too.  When I was here in 2010 I gorged myself on the raw bar.  Shellfish, sushi, this is a port town and it was all pretty close to nature.  They still put out a half dozen kinds of small whole fish which they'll grill for you on the spot, and that's really lovely, but the raw selection has dwindled.

I've been eating lunch at my company's cantinas.  The system goes like this.  If you're a production worker, you live in the dormitories and you get an allowance for three meals a day at the cantinas.  If you're an office worker, you get one meal.  There are two cantinas; the downstairs one has spicy food and the upstairs one is less spicy.  Downstairs you get what a westerner might expect:  chunks that are more bone than meat; thin broth; lots of rice; and vegetables that are mostly preserved rather than fresh.  The upstairs cantina, though ... honestly if I got that food from a sit-down Chinese restaurant in the US, I'd be very happy.  When was the last time somebody made you fresh pasta in front of your eyes, starting with hand rolled noodles that had never been dried or frozen?  I was enjoying one of these lunches when I came to the realization that the food at the cantina was better than half of what the Baolilai offered.  My coworker was shocked when I told him so.  The production workers are a captive market, the food doesn't have to be this good, but it is.

So I've been eating a lot of tofu, and I don't mind at all.  In other news, it has been determined that if I had to eat with chopsticks for a week with no access to silverware, I wouldn't starve.  But it ain't easy to pick up wet noodles with polished metal sticks.