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Tap dance

My faucet was going pip.

When I first noticed the faint, repeating sound from my kitchen sink, I thought it was a drip, but there was no drip. Just a faint, recurring pip sound from somewhere inside the faucet assembly. I could sometimes get it to abate by adjusting the knobs just right, or maybe it just seemed that way through random variation. But though it was quiet, it was enough to be distracting to me, because I’m easily distracted. (Oh, look, a shiny thing!) It sounded like maybe some kind of air bubbles forming and popping inside a pipe or gasket somewhere, but I couldn’t be sure.

So at one point last month, I mentioned it to the building manager, along with the fact that there tended to be small amounts of water leaking around the edges of the faucet assembly from time to time — which, in retrospect, was probably the more important thing to mention. Anyway, the maintenance guy came in and put in new valves or whatever they’re called inside the knobs. The pips stopped, but the knobs became stiffer and hard to turn. This is a problem for me, since I like to turn the knobs with my forearms in order to keep my hands clean after washing them. It was hard to apply enough torque with my forearms with the new knobs. So I happened to mention to the manager that the knobs were too stiff.

So the maintenance guy came in again a few days later and tried installing a different kind of valves or whatever in the knobs. He also put plenty of grease on them to lubricate them. But afterward, the knobs were even stiffer, and seemed to get harder to turn by the day. The maintenance guy couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Although I did learn more than ever before about the anatomy and functioning of my sink knobs.

But that knowledge quickly proved moot, since the maintenance guy decided just to replace the whole faucet assembly, and that’s what he and the senior maintenance guy did today. The old assembly proved difficult to take out, since the nuts were so old that they’d become stripped or worn or something and the senior guy needed to use a drill to break them open (they were plastic). Apparently, I’ve been living here so long that they haven’t had a chance to renovate the kitchen in over a decade. (I could ask them to, but it’d mean a rent increase, and, well, I’m a writer.)

Anyway, he gradually made progress, and it was fun watching the effects up above as he wrestled with the pipes below. It was like the faucet was dancing in gleeful anticipation of finally being freed from its bonds. (Hence the post title.) But I happened to be looking away at the moment it finally came loose, so I missed its triumphant leap into the sink.

So now I have a gleaming new faucet assembly, and the best part is, it has a single lever rather than separate hot and cold knobs! That’s the kind of kitchen faucet I used to have before I moved here, and it’s the kind I’ve always wished I had again, because it’s so much easier to turn on and off and adjust the temperature with, especially without using my hands. Come to think of it, it’ll probably be easier to keep clean as well. It wasn’t easy to clean underneath the old knobs, and they tended to accumulate mineral deposits or gunk of some sort. (The water in this neighborhood is alarmingly hard. I’d make some geeky joke about it giving Jay Garrick superpowers, but the science of that is so dreadful that I just can’t bring myself to do it.) Now I’ve just got a nice smooth plate with the faucet and lever in the middle, and fewer places for water to leak from.

EDIT: I just remembered the most important reason I prefer a single-lever faucet. In this building, in the winter, the cold water gets really cold, and the hot water tends to get really hot to compensate for it. So while in the summer, I can get by comfortably using just one or the other, in winter I need to find a tolerable mix of the two, and that’s a lot easier to do if I can just nudge a lever, rather than having to constantly use both knobs and try to find a good balance between them. At this time of year, when both hot and cold are at more moderate temperatures, it doesn’t make much difference, but I’m sure I’ll be grateful for the change come winter.

So all in all, I’m very pleased with the end result of all this. I guess it pays to mention it when your faucet goes pip.

Although I still wish I knew what that sound was.

Categories: Uncategorized

Welcome to my new homepage!

The job of restoring my webpage content to Written Worlds is now basically complete. I now have pages up for all my fiction, and annotations or spoiler discussions for everything except three out-of-print original stories. My first two Analog stories, “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” and “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” didn’t have much in the way of notes anyway, and since the stories currently aren’t easily available, I didn’t see much point in putting up annotations. I do hope to find some way to get them and “The Weight of Silence” back into print, though I’m hoping it’ll be a way that’ll make me some money, e.g. as ebooks (though I fear they don’t lend themselves to being collected together as well as my Hub stories). In the meantime, I tried to provide some back-issue links for the Analogs, at least.

The site is now rejiggered so that the “landing page” of christopherlbennett.wordpress.com is now my homepage rather than my blog; the front page of the blog is now that with /blog/ appended, though the actual posts’ addresses are unchanged. Still, you might want to edit your bookmarks if you still want to arrive at my blog first.

Note that there’s now an expanded menu under the banner, directing you to all the distinct pages. There’s one page for every novel, one page for my original short stories, and one page for my Star Trek short stories, though spoiler notes are still on separate pages. It should hopefully be a more elegant arrangement than my old site where all my books and stories were crammed together on just a few pages. Although that Trek Fiction submenu sure has a lot of pages on it. I hope that isn’t too cumbersome, since it’s only gonna get longer.

I was able to leave out a couple of pages by integrating their content with the main annotations pages. This was facilitated by the ease of adding images to a WordPress post. Some of my more elaborate tables wouldn’t fit into the column format here, but I discovered I could copy them into a paint program and save them as images.

I have not yet restored my History Papers and Kitty Pictures pages. As for the college history papers, I’ve uploaded PDFs of a few of them, specifically those that were linked to in my novel annotations. Whether I’ll do the same with the rest remains to be seen. And since my cats have been gone for over five years now, I’m not sure there’s much point in restoring their page. Maybe I’ll make a Facebook album of those pictures or something.

I’m stil planning to do more maintenance, such as adding more ordering links to the book pages. And I intend to look into alternative WordPress themes (designs/formats) that are more website-oriented. Also, if you encounter any problems with the site (e.g. dead links), please let me know. But I’ve completed the important work now, and I should really get some rest and then refocus on writing Rise of the Federation Book 4.

Categories: Uncategorized

Now here’s my plan…

I’ve been looking into options for replacing my dead website, and I’ve gotten a lot of suggestions from a number of helpful people, particularly my sister Kathleen and fellow Trek fan/writer Allyn Gibson. But while some of the possibilities for creating a new site seem promising, I think I’d need to give them some more thought and learn how to do stuff, and that would take time. It would also take money to get my own domain and host and stuff, and that’s not good timing with tax season upon us. So for now, I’m just going to try to recreate most of my website content as pages here on Written Worlds. If that works out, maybe I’ll do a fuller revamp of WW to turn it into more of a webpage-with-blog-attached rather than blog-with-webpage attached. Alternatively, this could just be a stopgap until I decide to create a new page somewhere else. In which case I’ll be doing more work in the long run, but better that than keep my fans waiting for new annotations and such.

So Written Worlds will now be under construction as I create new pages and figure out the best configuration for things. I trust my readers will bear with me. I’ve already made a couple of changes, sprucing up my About the Author page a bit, adding a bibliography, and — most importantly for me — adding a PayPal donation button to the sidebar. There will be more changes and additions to come, hopefully fairly quickly. When it comes to adding book annotations, I’m planning to prioritize the new ones and work my way backward.

In case anyone’s wondering, yes, I do have backups of all my old site content. I created and saved it all on my own computer before uploading it, since it was such an old, old website that the provider didn’t even have online creator software. (I’ve been using a mix of Netscape Komposer and MS Word.) So hopefully it should just be a matter of copying and pasting things into new WordPress pages, reformatting as needed, updating links, and uploading images to my blog gallery. So that shouldn’t take too long, once I get the hang of it. The main issue is figuring out how to configure it all into pages here on WW, but my sister directed me to an advice page about author-site creation that makes some good suggestions. I think I have a decent idea at this point of what I want to do. It should be an improvement on my old site and the way I had just one big master page for each category of my fiction (Original, Trek, Marvel). I think I’ll be able to create master pages here that are more like index pages linking to separate pages for each individual work.

So that’s my plan. I just hope it works…

Categories: Uncategorized

Bifocals, take two

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some trouble adjusting to my new progressive bifocals, which I thought were just issues with getting used to something new. The in-focus reading area seemed too narrow, and if I tilted my head back at all while watching TV, it went out of focus and I had to push the glasses lower down on my nose, which changed the focus a little and made my eyes sore. I kept meaning to go in to the store and ask about these issues, but the terrible winter weather kept me indoors most of the time.

And being indoors so long meant that it took me a while to realize that the new glasses just weren’t focusing that well on anything more than about 6 feet away. I could watch TV okay from my couch, but when I tried watching a show on my computer monitor while doing the dishes in the kitchen (I can see the monitor from there if I open the doors on the double-sided cabinet in between), it was out of focus. Finally, this past Sunday, I went out to my car (where I was keeping my old glasses as a backup) and did a one-to-one comparison, and there was no doubt: I had better distance vision with my old glasses than the new ones. Something had gone wrong.

So I went back in to the store on Monday and had them double-check my prescription, since I’m still under warranty. They got me in for a second session with the optometrist, and she found that the distance prescription she calculated this time was different from what it had been before, about halfway between the old glasses and the first bifocals. I’m not sure why it was different, but I had been wondering if the problem with my sleep mask being too tight — which I only realized the morning of my initial visit to the optometrist — had caused some lingering aftereffect on my vision, throwing off the prescription.

Also, the clerk in the glasses store (to which the optometrist’s office is attached) helped me figure out that the bridge supports had been in too far, so the glasses were sitting too high on my nose and so I wasn’t getting the best use of the focal areas. Adjusting that seemed to help with my reading, and once I got the new distance prescription, it seemed to work for that as well.

Although I still had to wait a lot more than an hour for my new lenses. Last time, it was because they broke the frames and had to send out for a replacement. This time, it was because they happened to have just begun doing a lengthy process of maintenance on their lens-grinding gizmo. So once more, I had to go home and then come back the next day, and that’s a pretty long drive. (I started going to this optometrist/store back when I lived closer to the area.) But once I got them at last, they seemed to be a definite improvement. I could no longer discern any significant difference between my new and old (pre-bifocal) glasses where distance vision was concerned, and the reading part still seemed better now that the glasses were a bit lower on my face. And I had no trouble driving with them or grocery-shopping with them. I may still have some adjustment issues, but so far they seem to be working better than before. I still need to be careful not to tilt my head back too much when watching TV (and I should probably just raise my screens higher), but it’s better than it was. Hopefully this will be the last time I’ll need to go back there for a good while.

Categories: Uncategorized

Making a spectacle of myself

February 13, 2015 4 comments

It’s finally happened — my vision has deteriorated to the point that I can no longer read easily without glasses. So here’s a “selfie” of me with my new progressive bifocals:

Self portrait

And yes, I need a haircut. Shut up.

I’d been a little concerned about how rapidly my vision was blurring, so I went to the eye doctor associated with the store both to get a new prescription and to make sure there wasn’t anything serious causing the change. The doctor didn’t find any problems beyond normal aging and eye fatigue. Part of the problem was that I’d had my sleep mask too tight, which affected my eye pressure and made it temporarily hard to focus. Which may have contributed to eye fatigue later in the day, I suppose. And maybe it’s not so much that my vision was rapidly getting blurrier as that I was noticing it more and worrying about it more. But apparently all I needed was new glasses, and more care to avoid eye fatigue and dryness.

The progressive lenses cost a lot, but they give me three levels of focus — up close for reading, medium for my computer screen, and distant — and given how much I use my computer, I needed that. Evidently a lot of people who wear normal bifocals need a second pair of glasses just for the computer, and that would’ve been even more expensive. (At the moment, I’m managing well enough seeing the screen without glasses, but it comes and goes, depending on how tired my eyes are, I guess, as well as how fine the print is.)

You know how that one glasses place used to have a slogan promising glasses in an hour? Well, they don’t play that up anymore. I was told my glasses would be ready in an hour, so I went off to have lunch and pick up a few groceries, and when I got back 75 minutes later, they kept me waiting — then told me that they’d stripped a screw trying to remove it from the frames I’d picked out, thus ruining the frames, so they had to get a duplicate from another store, adding another 24 hours to the preparation time. So I had to go home and come back the next day — a pretty long drive, too. I asked if there was a discount or refund for the delay, but apparently the one-hour thing is no longer a guarantee, if it ever was; the best they could manage was to give me a free lens-cleaning kit.

Honestly, I don’t even like these frames that much — I prefer something rounder, but apparently angular is fashionable this year, so this was about the closest I could find. But they look okay in the above picture, I guess. The last time I got new lenses, I was able to save money by reusing my old frames. That wouldn’t have worked this time, since I needed to wear my old glasses to drive home — both times, since the store clerk told me I shouldn’t drive in my bifocals until I’d had time to get used to the shifting focus and distortions they create. (The drawback of no-line, progressive-focus lenses is that there are out-of-focus wedges on the sides of the lower half, a consequence of the construction process, evidently.) So he advised me to wait until the next morning before starting to wear them.

So that’s what I did, although I wore them a bit that night to read in bed. It was kind of weird having different areas of focus in my field of view, but over the day, I learned how to direct my gaze/tilt my head to bring things into focus. But it didn’t really come together until I braved the cold to walk to the local drugstore for a new watch battery. Bad timing that my watch happened to die just when I wasn’t supposed to go driving. I suppose I could’ve driven in my old glasses, but it might confuse my brain to go back and forth, I guess. But I think going for a walk helped me adjust; before long, I seemed to be perceiving the world around me pretty normally and not noticing the distortions, as if my brain were learning to compensate. And the glasses definitely helped me see the tiny screws on the back of my watch; I don’t know if I could’ve changed the battery successfully without them.

The biggest problem I experienced yesterday was that the temples weren’t quite adjusted right; the ends of them were digging into the sides of my head, and the nose pieces were uncomfortable too. But this morning I carefully, delicately bent the temples to a configuration closer to those on my old glasses, and so far they seem more comfortable, with the weight/pressure distributed across more of my head rather than just digging into those two points — and I think it’s shifted some of the weight away from the nose pieces, so hopefully those will be more comfortable too.

Which is good, since it seems I’m going to need to wear glasses most of the time now. I wish there were a better way to restore vision, like some kind of eye drops that would reverse the age-related stiffening of the lenses, make them pliable again and easier to refocus. I know there’s lasik surgery, but that’s probably a lot more expensive than glasses, and it would probably just give you one particular focal length rather than letting you shift focus as needed.

Although the real problem, ultimately, is all this “getting older” nonsense. I still think of myself as 20-something, but my body persists in seeing it differently. I wish I could win it over to my way of thinking.

Categories: Uncategorized

You’d think an odometer would be easy to fix…

Last month, I posted about my discovery that my car’s odometer had broken down, and my decision to leave it unrepaired for the nonce rather than go through the hassle of leaving my car in the shop for a few days. In the interim, though, I realized that accurate odometer readings are important for things like insurance and resale value, so I decided to go ahead and see about getting the repair done. The dealer told me they’d have to send the part out to a specialist, meaning I’d have to leave my car with them for at least a couple of days, meaning I’d have to take a long bus ride home. So I checked with my local garage to find out if they could do it, then called the dealer to compare price estimates. Turns out the local place would’ve charged considerably more — but in the process of talking to both places, I learned they had both consulted with the same speedometer specialty shop, the one the dealer would’ve sent the part to. So I decided to talk to the specialists directly and see what they could tell me. It sounded like they had the best handle on the problem, and they offered me the lowest estimate, but the problem was transportation. The shop is about a mile from the nearest bus stop, mostly without sidewalks, and then I’d have to ride the entire length of the bus route just to get downtown and transfer to a bus back home — and then reverse it when the car was ready.

So I’d just about decided to go to the dealer, which is much closer to several bus routes, and let them send the part out to the specialty shop. But they suggested that if I got the shop to order in the part, then I could bring my car in when it was ready and save a few days. Which gave me time to rethink my plan, because it turned out the dealer would’ve charged an extra 90 bucks in labor for the part removal, and I realized that it wasn’t worth 90 bucks just to avoid a mile of walking either way. So I decided I’d take the car directly to the specialists and hopefully get it back within a few days. Once I learned they had the part in, I dropped the car off in the morning, got to the bus stop with plenty of time to spare, and actually rather enjoyed the bus ride because it went places I’ve never been before, including a fair stretch right alongside the Ohio River. I returned home with the hope that I’d be making the reverse trip a day or two later.

But it turned out the bus only went out there a few times a day, so if I got the call later than about 2:45 in the afternoon, I’d have to wait until the next day. And then I discovered it didn’t go out there at all on weekends, so I was disappointed when they were still working on the problem come Friday afternoon. It ended up taking until Monday, five days in all. It turns out that the part they needed to replace was the body control module, the actual computer “brain” of the car. Yup, that’s modern technology — one little function breaks down and the entire computer needs to be replaced. And apparently the car wasn’t designed to permit that kind of replacement, so they had to do some kind of workarounds to get the car and the new brain to recognize each other. They actually had to e-mail the part’s manufacturer over in Europe somewhere to get instructions. (They told me that cars are designed that way since the dealers want you to rely on them for repairs and replacements — but it was the dealer who sent me to these guys!)

Now, as I said in the earlier post, the dealer told me that the car’s onboard computer would still be registering the actual mileage even if it didn’t show on the display — but that was a misdiagnosis, since the problem was with the central module rather than just a sensor. With a whole new control module, the mileage would have to be programmed in from scratch. Fortunately, I don’t drive that often, and I keep pretty good records. So I was able to reconstruct all my driving since the odometer broke down. As I said last time, I knew that had occurred exactly 49 miles after the last time I filled the tank, and I knew the date of that fill-up. So I went through my financial records and receipts to remind myself where I’d spent money since that date, checked my calendar to fill in anywhere else I’d gone, used Google Maps to calculate travel distances, then subtracted 49 miles. That gave me my approximate mileage since the breakdown, to within a few miles’ margin of error. But as it turned out, the reprogramming could only get it within 30 or 40 miles anyway. But that’s like a twentieth of a percent of the car’s total mileage, so I guess it doesn’t matter much, statistically.

So anyway, I finally got the call on Monday afternoon, in time for me to catch the last available bus of the day. I’d told them not to rush it, since I wouldn’t want to come out there and find that it still didn’t work. But the repairman assured me it was ready. What’s more, he even volunteered to pick me up at the bus stop and drive me back to the shop, which I really appreciated given the frigid weather. I wasn’t quite sure what to watch for when I got off the bus, but he soon showed up in my own car; the pickup served two functions, since it was proof that the car was working and the odometer registering again.

So I drove us back to the shop and paid my bill, which was exactly equal to his estimate (well, plus tax). It seemed we were all done — but then I found that the car wouldn’t respond to my key-fob remote anymore. So the repairman had me follow his car over to a nearby GM dealership whose repair guy had helped him with some of the programming, and got the guy to do some sort of handshake or reset to fix the problem in a couple of minutes, for no extra charge. Then I went and got some much-needed groceries (I’d picked up a few essentials on foot over the weekend, but I needed more), filled the tank again, and drove home, with the car performing fine. I wanted to fill up right after so I could reset the trip odometer and resume my gas-mileage calculations fresh.

I had been wondering why the shop had such a remote, pedestrian-unfriendly location, given that people would occasionally need to drop their cars off and find alternate transport home. But now that I’ve gotten a sense of the collaboration among different mechanics, the way they consult with each other and help each other out, I guess it makes sense that you’d want to locate an auto-repair business close to other auto specialists and dealers.

All in all, I spent a fair amount of money on this, but I’m confident that I chose both the least expensive and the best option available (two things that don’t often go together). If I’d taken it anywhere else, I would’ve spent more and might’ve been without my car even longer, given the evident trickiness of the repair. And really, if the problem was with the central computer, maybe it’s a good thing I went ahead and did this. If that function of the control chip had broken down, who knows what else might’ve failed soon?

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

But how can I measure Odo now?

December 5, 2014 6 comments

I have an automotive habit that I learned from my father: When I fill up the gas tank, I write down the mileage on the trip odometer and divide it by the number of gallons I buy in order to keep track of the car’s fuel efficiency. When I did so yesterday, I was rather shocked to see that the odometer read only 49 miles and I bought slightly over 7 gallons, giving an apparent fuel efficiency of just under 7 MPG. My first thought was that something was seriously wrong with my engine, or something else that affects fuel efficiency. My second thought was that something was seriously wrong with my odometer. A bit more driving confirmed that the odometer was broken — I’d no doubt driven significantly more than 49 miles since the last fill-up, but they hadn’t been registering. Either way, I needed maintenance, so I made an appointment. (Ironically, the dealer is directly across the street from the gas station I used yesterday — I was in the neighborhood after a dentist appointment — but I didn’t think I could just drop in, and I wasn’t sure what the problem was until I drove home and confirmed it was the odometer. So I had to make a second trip halfway across town in as many days. Just as well my fuel efficiency wasn’t the problem.)

So I went to the dealership and told the guy there about the odometer problem. He advised me that fixing it would probably entail removing the whole speedometer assembly and sending it out to someplace that could repair it, which would be cheaper than replacing the whole schmeer, but would leave me carless for a couple of days. But he said he’d check first during the inspection to see if there was just a blown fuse or something. So I occupied myself with my phone (listening to music to drown out the TV, browsing the web, and playing backgammon) while I waited, and hoped that it would turn out to be just a blown fuse. No such luck — he would have to send the part in for repair, and I’d be without a ride forĀ  couple of days if I agreed to do that.

But then it occurred to me… do I really need a working odometer that badly? It’s handy for tracking my fuel efficiency, but I don’t really use it for anything else. I tend to ignore it except when I’m at the gas station. I suppose it could be useful if you know that a given destination is X miles from a certain intersection, say, but that’s kind of superfluous now that I have a smartphone with GPS navigation. And if the dealership or another garage needs to know how many miles are on the car, they can get that info from its onboard computer (it’s still registering the correct mileage, it’s just not getting to the dashboard display). So I decided that, for now, I’d just make do without an odometer.

Still, it may be a minor inconvenience, but it’s a sign of the car’s age (it’s 13 years old now). And it’s my second minor breakdown this year; last winter, the trunk release button on the dashboard stopped working because a cable came loose. Maybe it’s time I started to think about trading it in. I’m just not sure I could afford the expense of buying a car. But maybe if I get one or two of the extra writing gigs I’m hoping to get in the near future, it’ll be worth further consideration.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,
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