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devil duck

For want of a nail...

OK, so last night I'm about to go to bed, and realize that the humidifier in the bedroom needs to be refilled. I take off the tank, carry it to the bathroom, fill it, screw the cap back on, and the funky little valve that prevents it from gushing all over the bedroom floor pops out in my face. I put it back in, screw the cap on again, and it pops out again. Turns out there's a 1" rubber washer supposed to hold it in place, and it's fallen out into the tank. So I fish that out, put it back onto the valve, screw the cap on again, and it pops out again. The washer is worn down to the point that it won't stay on; I need a new washer of just the right size and shape.

So this morning I check the manufacturer's Web site. They have a "spare parts" section, but it doesn't include washers. Have to fall back on the telephone; they've got an 800 number. I pick up the phone, and there's no dial tone, nor the "live" sound you get when another phone on the line is off the hook; nothing. The phone in the kitchen still works, so it isn't that we've been cut off from the outside world, but the one in the office should work too. Besides, our voicemail requires a touch-tone phone, and the one in the kitchen is rotary-dial, so we now have no voicemail.

The connections between headset and phone, and phone and phone cord, seem OK. There's a phone jack and a spare phone (not plugged in) in the attic; I try various substitutions between those and the one in the office, and conclude that the phone jack in the attic is dead too. Back in the office, I trace the cord from the phone to the wall. It goes into a modular junction box that's not attached to the wall, just lying on the floor, but the connections here seem solid too. The wire going into the junction box runs about ten feet along the baseboard, around to the other side of the room and down a hole in the floor. To see whether this is all intact, I have to move the spare bed a few inches, and I have to move the sheet-music filing cabinet a few inches. The bed is no problem, but the filing cabinet weighs more than I do, so I have to take the books and concert programs off the top, and pull out one of the drawers full of sheet music.

Guess what: the top of the filing cabinet hasn't been exposed since 2002, and it has a thick layer of dust, so I have to go get the portable vacuum cleaner and some paper towels. The floor behind the filing cabinet and the bed likewise hasn't been exposed since 2002 and has a thick layer of dust; see above. The portable vacuum cleaner is discharged, but I bring its charger up from the basement and plug it in (fortunately, I still have extra extension cords lying around the office from last week's LP-to-MP3 escapades).

By this point shalmestere is getting antsy, wanting to go to the farmer's market at Union Square. I've tentatively concluded that the (pre-modular-jack) telephone cord has weakened where it goes around a sharp corner, and I'll need to cut it off and re-attach it to the junction box... come to think of it, the junction box might be the problem, so maybe I'd better get a new one. Fortunately, there's a Radio Shack a block from Union Square. We buy our politically-correct, hormone-free, antibiotic-free pork, bison, beef, and vegetables, get a quick lunch, buy a junction box and some fairly-high-end chocolate, and head home. (Pause for clothes-shopping. We apologize for the interruption.)

Back home, I disassemble the old junction box, strip some insulation, and re-attach things to the new junction box. This time I think I'll actually attach it to the wall. It's sorta hard to tell where there's anything solid to screw into behind the wall, but after half a dozen drill holes I think I've found a decent spot. I cut the wire to length, strip insulation again, screw everything together again, screw it into the wall, and it runs into the baseboard so it doesn't quite sit flush. I've been at this for a while now; might as well get it right, so I drill two more holes half an inch higher, screw it into the wall again, and everything seems hunky-dory. The phone even works.

Of course, nobody answers the 800 number at the humidifier company; the message says "call back during our normal business hours," which it doesn't bother to list. We still don't have a working humidifier, but at least we have a working phone. And books, sheet music, filing cabinet drawers, decade-old SCA newsletters, vacuum cleaners, etc. all over the office.

Time to walk the Things and go to bed....


valuable finds

Actually, we had found a number of valuable pieces of paper (e.g. credit card bills) the week before, in the process of clearing the spare bed for my mother to sleep in when she came to visit. So a good deal of the valuable ore was already worked out before this round of mining :-)