Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Daily Trash: The Story Told By Rubbish

TrashI wrote a while ago about my new hobby of picking up trash when I walk the dog in the morning. While not as glamorous as collecting cars or as interesting as beekeeping, it does have its moments. And it keeps the couple blocks around where I live looking pretty clean, which is nice.

But while some people read tea-leaves or speak to mediums to understand their world and predict the future, I look to my trash. It is a bellweather of the world around me, a sign of the times. Through trash, some mysteries of the universe can be revealed, if only slightly, while at the same time, the trash puts forth new questions daily. Such as, how did that 5 foot long section of someone's bathroom wall end up on the corner of 10th and Spring?

This week, occurring in greater frequency are rubber gloves. I have picked up at least three of them since Monday. This can only mean one thing: swine flu paranoia. I have not yet found a respirator on the ground. You know, those things people wear while sanding drywall which probably have absolutely no benefit versus airborne contagions. But I expect I will see them soon as H1N1 fear grips the nation.

FuneralSeveral days ago, the normal tranquility of Columbia Heights was disturbed by paramedics on my street. By normal tranquility, I mean police helicopters, gunshots, and drunken yelling. This is not the first time I've seen such things, but as we watched a stretcher emerge from our neighors' home, we wondered if things were not more serious this time.

The funeral procession observed yesterday afternoon by N. confirmed this. This morning's trash was a solemn reminder of the passing of a man whom I knew mostly by the clinking of his spoon against his cereal bowl as he ate his morning breakfast on the front porch. That sound from a few doors away, which had become a familiar part of my morning ritual last summer as I enjoyed a cup of coffee on my own porch, has been silenced. Rest in peace.

ExtenZeThe final piece of trash will close this post on a lighter note. Outside "The Asylum," a DC outpatient mental health clinic near my home, I found this blister pack on the ground. Excited by the discovery of what I thought might be actual drugs, I peered purposefully at the pill pack. What would it be? Antibiotics? Antidepressants? A mystery drug which I would have to eat, identity unknown, like Alice and her mushrooms, in order to determine its true purpose? Would I take the blue bill??

No - it was ExtenZe. You know, the natural supplement for male enhancement you see relentlessly adertised by that smiling nerdy guy who gets wayyy more play than his much-better-looking buddies. Who says size doesn't matter... big is back!

Geeky sidenote: Am I the only person who has noticed the similarity between the "ExtenZe" logo and the logo for "ExistenZe," the creepy David Cronenburg flick from 1999 which is almost identically named? I made this connection the first time I saw one of those ExtenZe advertisements on cable TV but never dug further into this important matter.

It appears that I am not alone. A blogger answers the question we have all been wondering: eXistenZ vs. ExtenZe: Which is Better? Click through for the shocking conclusion.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's Good In The Hood?

Columbia Heights PlazaA few happenings in the NoCo/SoPet area lately, mostly good.

The best: Thai Tanic II, in The Allegro building at 14th and Meridian. While one must question the wisdom of naming your business after the ship that infamously sank on its first voyage, I have to say, this is some of the best Thai I've had in DC.

I've never eaten at Thai Tanic I, the original vessel of spicy deliciousness, and honestly, I can't believe what I've been missing. Every since the demise of Thai Town in Woodley Park many years ago, it's been next to impossible to find any Thai in DC that didn't cater to the bland. But TT II does not hold back on the heat.

Praise the stars. I'm not saying this will be like really authentic Thai on the west coast or anything, but it's damn good and the flame is on. Beyond the fact that they aren't afraid to put a little hot pepper in there, the menu is a lot more interesting than the typical Thai place, with lots of inventive dishes I've never seen before. I've beeen twice so far and had the Bird Nest on Fire (stir-fried chicken with chili & garlic paste, topped with red pepper & surrounded by crispy kale) and the Nua Ka Ting (beef slices marinated with wine, stir fried in Thai garlic chili sauce, topped with deep fried basil leaves). Actually, I just ate leftovers of the latter for lunch. Delicious.

Park Place at Petworth Metro is finally showing signs of being finished, meaning that walking and/or driving around the Petworth/Georgia Avenue Metro is no longer a giant pain in the butt as the sidewalk obstructions have finally been removed. It looks fantastic and I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first-floor retail that's planned there, to include a new restaurant from check Gillian Clark of the now-defunct Colorado Kitchen.

Cohi PlazaThe New Plaza at 14th and Park - this thing is just so cool. Every time I've walked by it, there have been at least a half-dozen people hanging out on the grass or the seat-border, playing in the fountian, or just taking a breather. It's a really cool little space and I think the design came out wonderfully. Nice work.

Went to Social just up the street from Thai Tanic a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, they were hosting some kind of event that evening and we couldn't even get to the bar to get a drink - it was packed. I hope this is a good sign for the place, because a lot of what I've been reading elsewhere is a little hit or miss. But I blame the mediocre reviews more on the classlessness of the reviewers, than on Social.

Without having tried their food or beverage yet, I hope they succeed. The space is definitely interesting and takes a different direction than most places in Columbia Heights, which tend toward the casual. Social is certainly not stuffy, but it's pricey and you just get a vibe that says "Smith Point" a lot more than "Wonderland." But quite honestly, while I'm not a huge fan of Georgetown-style pretension, there is absolutely nothing bad about having businesses that attract a higher paycheck of customer than the ones I generally frequent around here.

Because that can have only one consequence: In 20 years I will sell my house for three million dollars, and be able live out the rest of my days in Bali with a staff of three to prepare my pureed peas and change my diapers.

So keep 'em coming, and dammit, spend lots of money at Social.

New 4-Way Stop at 13th & Taylor Streets NW. I bet you didn't know about that one, did you? Well you have to get up pretty early in the morning to sneak one past this guy.

This intersection used to be controlled only by a stop-sign on Taylor Street. 13th
Street traffic did not stop. As I live nearby, I must drive through this intersection frequently. It is interesting that this happened, because I had become convinced that there was a home for people who are smart enough to get a driver's license, but too stupid to drive, somwehre nearby. More than any other place in DC, people attempting to cross 13th Street from Taylor never seemed to be able to comprehend that 13th Street traffic did not stop. I have had to slam on my brakes many times because of this. Apparently the idea of a two-way stop is mind-boggling to some DC drivers.

Anyway, my theory is that with all the new development in Columbia Heights, the resulting influx of population finally put enough pressure here that someone noticed and decided a 4-way stop was in order. I think it's a good idea. Taylor Street is the principal route into Rock Creek Park and points west from hereabouts, and there are so many other stop signs on 13th Street already down here, what's one more. It makes it easier to turn left onto Taylor into the park (especially in the morning during rush hour, with heavy southbound traffic), and it eliminates the possibility of some moron thinking you're going to stop even though you don't have a stop sign.

For the record I am not in favor of traffic signs that are installed to deal with the fact that some people are morons. In this situation, though, it was warranted. All hail the new stop sign. Cyclists: no worries, like every other traffic control device, it won't affect you in any way.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Would The Law-Abiding Cyclist Please Come Forward?

Good BikersI have, against my better judgment, engaged in debates with members of DC's cycling community on local blogs. From time to time. These discussions are usually sparked by an accident between a cyclist and a car, and generally without any solid details on the actual circumstances surrounding said accident, a bunch of people will immediately rail against the driver. They will call for inquisitions, hangings, and protests. The assumption is, without exception, that the motorist is at fault.

The problem is, cyclists break laws all the time. But in the course of these discussions, these avid defenders of the impossibility of a cyclist being at fault in an accident refuse to admit this. Rather, they claim that the cyclist-scofflaws are the "exception," the bad eggs that give the vast majority if the cycling community a bad name.

Anyone who leaves their house more than once a year knows this is, simply, a crock. The reality is quite the opposite: cyclists who actually stop at stop signs and red lights are the exception.

Today, I spent about 15 minutes at the corner of 14th and Park in Columbia Heights taking videos of cyclists.

Not a single cyclist waited for the light to change before proceeding.


The reason I chose this intersection is because it's unquestionably not safe. There is construction going on. It's a complex intersection where Kenyon, Park, and 14th all converge in a mayhem of traffic lights. There is tons of pedestrian traffic. I also included one shot I took last week in Adams Morgan, where I was initially inspired to conduct this little video collage by the shocking frequency of light-runners I saw.

Spend two minutes watching the video as every single cyclist blows through the light, despite the presence of construction equipment, cars coming from all angles, pedestrian traffic, and cops directing traffic. I apologize for the awful quality. Cell phone video technology leaves a lot to be desired. But even so you can clearly see all the cyclists ignoring the light while pedestrians wait on the corner.

In a couple of the shots, you will see traffic coming northbound (on my side of the street) while a cyclist goes south. They are still running the light - those cars are coming from Park Road. You can't easily tell in the crappy video but the light is always red when you see a cyclist crossing Park.

Also note pedestrians rarely cross against the light while every cyclist does, and further that there's actually a traffic cop standing on the opposite corner of 14th and Park throughout the whole time.

So, cyclists, would you care to explain how these people are merely the rare exceptions to an otherwise law-abiding group of citizens? Would you like to explain why even the pedestrians generally saw fit to wait for the lights to change at an intersection that is clearly unsafe, but not one cyclist did?

Sorry suckers. Credibility: gone.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fix For Bosch Range Door Closing Problem

Update 4/11/13

Wow, it's been three and a half years and I'm still getting comments on this! I thought the latest one was worth calling out because it seems that Bosch has, finally, recognized this as a design flaw and come up with a solution. Anonymous says:

Bosch has a permanent fix for this problem and will cover the cost of the part. They will only cover the cost if it is installed by one the Bosch Authorized Repair services. I was able to take the door in to the repair shop for a flat price of $50 for them to install the kit. 
  • Step 1: Call around to a Bosch authorized repair center till you find one who will do it for a flat fee. 
  • Step 2: Call Bosch and tell them you have been having the door problem since you bought it and want fixing kit that was designed to correct the manufacturing flaw. They will ask you to send a copy of your receipt for the stove. When they agree to cover the parts only tell them to send the order to the shop you have an agreement with for carry in service. 
I used Jamie's fix years ago but it eventually failed again. The fix kit has reinforced steel plates tack welded to the inside of the liner where the hinges attach. You can buy kit and do it yourself $175-$211. Or Have Bosch cover the part and do an in home.
Good information. Personally - the fix I made back in '09 is still working fine for me. This solution seems fairly inconvenient and/or expensive (either you have to take your door to an authorized service center, and/or pay $175+!). But it's good to know there's at least a real fix available if this "hack" fails eventually.

Frankly, it's pretty crappy that Bosch won't just send you the hinge so you can install it yourself for free in 10 minutes. How generous of them to agree to pay to replace their defective part after five years of ignoring the problem.. but only if you pay them to install it!! So this doesn't really do anything to change my opinion of the lousy quality of their customer support. But still, good to have options.

In the nearly 4 years since I posted this problem, I've gotten over 80 comments, thousands of views, this page is the #1 google search result for bosch range door and on the first page for lots of important variants such as bosch range problems. You know how many times someone from Bosch has tried to contact me, commented here, or even addressed this issue in any public forum?


It's 2009. Oh wait. Now, it's 2013. Wake up. Your potential customers read this stuff. This is bad press. It could have been good press if you responded to it, ever.

Original Post 10/17/09

This is going to be one of those posts that most of you should skip, now, unless you happen to have a Bosch range on which the oven door doesn't close properly.

I have a Bosch HDI7282U 30" slide-in range which I bought new about two years ago. A few months ago the oven door stopped closing all the way, preventing a good seal. This caused a lot of problems, not the least of which is half the heat goes into the kitchen instead of staying in the range. Uneven cooking and verrrry long preheats was a consequence. While the range is probably still under warranty, my online research into this problem told me that I was far from alone. At least it's a common enough problem that others had discussed it in a few online forums. Unfortunately there was no good resolution that I could find, and those who had dealt with Bosch's service (even under warranty) did not get satisfaction. Can't say I'm excited to hear about that since I own three Bosch appliances. But I finally got around to trying to figure this out myself, and came up with a good solution that is simple and takes about 15 minutes.

Remove The Range Door

Start by taking off the range door. To do this, open the door all the way and flip the hinge-locks toward the door all the way. The two pictures below show the hinge in the normal position (left), and the locked position (right) needed to remove the door. Complete instructions are on Page 48 of the manual. You can also download the whole manual here -- I assure you it is a riveting read.

Once the hinge is in the locked position, you can basically just lift the door up an pull it out. The hinges have a little slot on the bottom and are cantilevered against a pin on the top. So you raise it up about 1/4" to clear the slot, and pull it straight out.


Below is a picture of my oven door with the hinge in the locked postion.


You must tilt the door to a 45 degree angle with the hinge locked before removing it. Do not try to close the door all the way with the hinge locked. From this position, just raise the door vertically about 1/4", then pull it horizontally awayfrom the oven.


Remove the door hinges

To do this you need two torx wrenches, a T10 and a T20. There are four screws holding the inside of the door to the outside, and three screws holding each hinge onto the door interior, for a total of 10 screws. Their approximate positions are circled in the photo of my door below. Yeah, it's pretty gross, and that's AFTER I cleaned it. Remove all the screws. When you take off the two at the top, be aware that the handle will no longer be attached to the door.


After all the screws are out, lift the door interior away from the exterior. The hinges are just loose now, they look like this:


You're not going to do much now except put everything back together, with one minor adjustment. I'm not quite sure exactly what's causing the change in dynamics here resulting in the door not closing - either the hinge isn't quite right any more, or the pin inside the range itself that the hinge cantilevers against moved slightly. I saw no evidence of anything bent on the hinge itself so I am guessing it's the pin. Accessing this looks like a big hassle, even if it could be adjusted, so I went for a different solution.

To correct the problem, all you need to do is change the dynamics of the door so when the hinge is in it's "closed" position, the door once again is shut all the way. The simplest way to do this is to add some space between the back of the hinge and the door at the top of the hinge. In th picture above, you may be able to make out a couple little washers on the counter behind the hinge. Re-attach the hinge to the door interior, but put a couple washers between the large screw and the hinge itself. I used two washers on each side like the ones above, adding a little less than 1/8" of space. This results in a significantly bigger difference at the top of the door, and was just right to cause my door to close snugly.

Put It Back Together

After you've re-attached the hinges with your spacer, completely attach it using the two small screws for each. Put the door interior back over the door exterior, being sure to line everything up correctly. There are three tabs on the bottom that should go inside the interior, and make sure the handle is correctly positioned before tightening the two screws at the top.

After it's completely reassembled, simply put it back on the range, open it all the way, and return the hinge locks to the open postion. You're done.

3-year Thanksgiving update (11/20/2012): some early commenters wondered how long this fix would work. I am still working on the original fix and the door is still quite snug. Commenter #69 gives a very believable explanation as to the physics at work and why this happens in the first place or might fail again. Perhaps the pin can only bend so far in the way this is set up on the Bosch and in my situation it's reached that point. But I have not had any further trouble since I originally posted this fix.

On the other hand the thermostat is off by about 25 degrees now...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Things I've Seen Lately

A cell-phone photo journal of slightly strange things afoot in Columbia Heights and thereabouts in the last couple weeks.

Hashers in Crystal City. Yeah, it's raining too.


For these guys, it's ALWAYS halloween. Or maybe they went to Wesleyan.

Haunted House

Seriously, what's up with the creepy paint jobs?

Weird Bricks

Cyclist running red light on 16th Street. Okay, not that weird. At least he's in the sidewalk.

Bad Biker

Cyclist not running a red light. Now THAT'S weird.

Good Bikers

People hangin' at the new Plaza in Columbia Heights. Cool.

Columbia Heights Plaza

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Power Tools

Apropos of power tools, I just read This post over at DC Rowhouse about their acquistion of some new guy toys. I have been in the middle of some crazy home improvement projects, largely predicated on the impending (yet never seeming to be arriving) winter, and the post inspired me to write about my own recent power tool happenings.

Small bedroomWhen I had the floors redone in Petworth (pictures on Prince of Petworth), I took the radiator out of the smallest bedroom. This picture shows the room just after the floors had been redone, with the radiator out. It used to be on the left, where you can see pipes protruding from the floor. There were two problems. First, this room is small. With the radiator in that corner, you really couldn't fit anything other than a twin bed in there in any practical way. The other problem is, someone had taken a bad thing and made it even worse by moving the radiator around the corner from where the pipes were, and hooking it up with a very frankenstein-like system of copper and steel pipes above the floor. It looks like the radiator had to be replaced at some point, since the current one is not sized to fit where the original holes in the floor were. So rather than getting a correctly sized radiator, or moving the pipes, they had done the most awful kind of MacGyvering to hook up the new one. While perhaps suitable for post apocalyptic emergency heating, it was unacceptable for my palatial Petworth property.

The way we prioritize projects in the home improvement game is on a "need to do" basis. That means, when there's a ton of other crap that needs doing, and/or is more fun than other things, stuff like "having the heat work in June" does not fall high on the list. So, the radiator sat where you see it, attached to nothing, for several months.

Come October, that list gets reorganized a little bit. When the weatherman is predicting lows of 38 degrees and the furnace has been idle for six months, what seemed rather unimportant suddenly becomes urgent. So I spent the majority of my free time in the last week or so getting this bad boy re-installed in a place that made a lot more sense. Actually, it ended up exactly where you see it in the picture, except it's now hooked into the hot-water heating system instead of just hangin' out cruisin' chicks. This was the result of a great deal of ceiling-smashing, pipe cutting, wrench twisting, and cursing, but it went well and everything now works. Yay!

Anyhoo, whenever I do a big project myself, I justify the purchase of an expensive new power tool with all the money I saved by not paying someone. It's a great system, see, I still spend a lot less than if I hadn't done it myself, and I get a great new toy.

This time around it was a DeWalt 18 volt three-speed hammer drill with XRP lithium ion battery technology. It's pretty goddamn awesome, I have to say. I already have a hammer drill (a Bosch, great tool) but this one is cordless and once you've been un-wired it's hard to want to plug in those old-timey corded tools again. They have their place and time, but that place is gathering dust in the basement, and that time is when you can't find the cordless one or your batteries are all dead.

I also had the opportunity to test out DeWalt's warranty service. DeWalt makes pretty good tools. Their power drills are very well respected by professionals. My regular 18v cordless drill, which I've had for at least three years and have treated worse than a red-haired stepchild, is my favorite tool, ever. It is perfectly balanced, relatively lightweight, and has enough torque to sprain your wrist if you aren't careful. Picture: me with my trusty drill in the background. It still works like new.

PICT0011So I was surprised and disappointed when the right-angle drill I had bought less than six months before went all Ford on me and started making awful grinding noises at the same time as no longer working. And I had barely used it. This was a while ago, and I kind of forgot about it until this weekend when I found myself considering the purchase of another tool. The experience didn't turn me off to DeWalt because I own at least a half-dozen of their products with few if any problems. But I did want to get it fixed, and noticed while I was at home depot that it had a 3 year warranty.

So I got by butt to the nearest service center in Capitol Heights, Maryland on Monday. Not especially convenient, I must say, but my experience there was pleasant. They took the drill without so much as a question (like, "did you, in fact, use this drill to winch your car out of a ditch?") and they didn't even want a receipt. It has been almost a year since I bought it and their warranty is 100% coverage to a year, and then I think only parts or something. So I was surprised they didn't want proof of purchase date. They said it will be ready in a week, the whole drop-off took less than five minutes. Couldn't have been easier. So at this point, I am impressed with their warrantee service as well.

The DeWalt company has not provided me with any compensation for this shill. However, I will accept any and all donations of cash and/or power tools from DeWalt, or any maker of quality power tools, and will gladly provide completely biased reviews in exchange for said items.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A year goes by so quickly...

If you are reading this in google reader, the captions look screwy. Click through.

One year ago today. Presumably, before and after:

The Force Is Strong


Nine months ago:

Inaugural View


Six months ago:

80's Dance Party

Battle of the Bands

Three months ago:


Stairs Sanded

One month ago:


Thursday, October 1, 2009

DC Cabs To Stop Picking Up People Who Need Cabs

The informal coalition of cab drivers in DC has once again decided to step up and let the public know that they will no longer tolerate the free market system. Long oppressed by the evil Capitalist notion that providing a valuable product or service at a fair price results in profits, some cabbies will be taking a stand by refusing to pick up people late at night in Adams Morgan.

Curiously, this protest comes on the heels of Councilmember Jim Graham's right-hand man being arrested on charges of accepting bribes in exchange for promoting legislation that would artificially limit the number of cabs in DC. It's not clear who would have benefited from this. Certainly not the people trying to get cabs. If you were a cab driver with a medallion, then it would work in your favor, but then who decides who gets a medallion, and at what cost? Anyway, some cab drivers opposed it.

The sequence of events as I understand it is this:

  • Loza accepts a bribe from someone with an interest in limiting the number of cabs.
  • Loza's boss, Jim Graham, puts forward legislation for a "medallion" system, meaning every cab must bear a "medallion" to operate legally, and there are a limited number of these available.
  • Some cab drivers speak out against this legislation, presumably the ones who aren't in bed with whoever wanted the legislation
  • Loza is arrested.
  • Jim Graham pulls the legislation (even though he claims it had nothing to do with Loza)
  • For reasons that are not at all obvious, after legislation is pulled, cab drivers organize a protest against said legislation that is no longer on the table that they opposed anyway

Huh?!? From the article:
"The city wants to take the right of ownership from us, and we want to get people's attention and let people know that this is our livelihood," said Ali Tahmaseb, chairman of the Dominion of Cab Drivers.

The protest organizers said that on Saturday and Sunday between 1 and 4 a.m., taxis will not pick up customers north of U Street NW, east of Connecticut Avenue NW, south of Harvard Street NW or west of 16th Street NW.

So the idea behind this protest is to, er, force drunk people to find another way home? Such as... driving? People who more likely than not live in Arlington anyway, and therefore don't vote in DC? Classy. And stupid.

One thing is astoundingly clear to me. There are very few people who live in DC who are even remotely sympathetic to taxicab drivers. First, they seem to spend more time protesting than driving cabs. Who do they think this move will influence to take action in their favor? The people who couldn't get a cab??

You must be joking. Unlike New York City, which would become paralyzed without cabs, in DC, they are a convenience. Most people get around with cars and public transit. The reality is, you can't get a damn cab in this city half the time anyway! And even when you can actually get a cab to stop, tricking you into thinking he might take you home for a larger-than-expected fee, half the time they scurry off, leaving you standing on the curb.

Why is this? Because they frequently decide that "Columbia Heights," "Shaw," "Some Other Place Where Black People Live," or "Some Place Where I Might Not Get A Fare After Dropping You Off" is not one of the places they've ever heard of or are willing to drive to.

As a result of the difficulty in getting a cab even when they aren't on strike, very few people really depend on cabs. So even if a taxicab strike was organized well enough that most people participated, I doubt anyone would even notice or care.

So, the inevitable consequences of this latest "strike" are obvious.

1) Other cab drivers, who actively embrace working for a living, will fill show up to fill the void, and
2) You won't be able to get a cab, which you are already used to anyway, and
3) ...That's it.

This eater of farm fresh meat believes that #1 is almost certainly going to be the result anyway. The reports following most past taxicab strikes have pretty much echoed this sentiment... "there was a strike?" Yes, there are enough cabs who actually believe that earning a living is more important than trying to game the system.

Seriously, cabbies, you need to work on your PR campaign. Because what you're doing is not working.

If there are actually problems with the current cab system, then let's discuss them. But so far it is not at all clear exactly what the cabs want except, perhaps, a handout. Though they fought the meters tooth and nail, everyone else loves them, and the rate structure is one of the most beneficial for city cabs in the entire country. They have the highest drop fee anywhere, and all these other surcharges like rush hour and extra passengers that don't exist elsewhere.

Frankly, though not perfect, I think things are better than they've ever been since the meter switchover. I personally have spent much more on cabs than I ever did before, because, astoundingly, the meter system means you pay for the amount of service you receive. Whereas I used to walk miles through DMZ-like neighborhoods to avoid taking a cab, I happily will try to find one when circumstances warrant now. And I have found the demeanor and quality of service has improved too.

So I guess I'm still not sure what they want, or what their argument is for wanting whatever it is they want. On that note, I will sum all this up by saying please shut up and drive.