Pan-Mass Challenge 2007

Knowing my blog readers as I do, I’ve probably reached you by some other means at this point. My fund raising is not quite where it should be so far this year, so here’s another gentle reminder: next weekend, I’m again riding the Pan-Mass Challenge to raise money for cancer research and treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. I need your help in the form of a donation.
I had hoped to do better than the $5000 I raised last year, but instead I’m struggling to meet my minimum commitment. This is nobody’s fault but my own; I’ve had plenty of distractions over the last few months. But I’d like to do especially well this year, in memory of Cian Crowley, the infant son of a friend. Cian was diagnosed with neuroblastoma just a couple of weeks after PMC 2006, and died in October.
Like any parent, I looked at Cian and all too easily saw my own kids. Cancer has touched my life before, but this recent experience drove home the importance of private fundraising in advancing the science of cancer treatment. I’m not a healer, and I’m not a researcher, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be part of the fight. The same goes for you. I hope you’ll join me.
You can donate online here, or contact me and I’ll give you instructions for donating by check. Any amount will help.

Moving Stories: The Washer

As part of our recent household move, Elise and I, having tired of pounding our laundry between two rocks down at the neighborhood creek, resolved to purchase a new washing machine and dryer. After much online research and inspection of floor models at local appliance marts, we settled on a large-capacity, front-loading pair. The shorter members of this family commonly go through two or three outfits a day, resulting in a small mountain of food-stained shirts and pants.
The new appliances arrived on a Saturday, accompanied by their friend Mr. Oh-my-god-are-you-sure-that-fridge-is-going-to-fit (it did, with about 2 mm of clearance on each side). However, we couldn’t start doing laundry right away. In a fit of eco-friendliness or perhaps self-loathing, we purchased a gas dryer and needed the plumber to run the gas line from the basement. When I arrived home from work on Monday, Elise announced that Mike had done that job, hooked up, leveled and tested the washer, and we were ready to go. The fateful moment arrived the next day, as the movers unloaded furniture and the Verizon tech connected our house’s tube to the larger series of tubes that is the Internet. I gathered up a few bedsheets, tossed them into the washer, which bleeped cheerfully as I set the parameters for the cycle. I shut the closet and returned to directing the furniture streaming in my new front door.
About half an hour later I heard a holllow, metallic banging coming from the laundry closet. I rushed over and found the washer had walked halfway out of the closet and was shoving against the dryer. I wrapped my hands around the top front corners of the cabinet and leaned against it to keep it in place, while it vibrated so badly that the front panel blurred.Clearly, washing technology had advanced recently. I looked down and saw beads and curls of polyurethane rising from the leading edge of a six-inch-long, washer-foot-width scar on the wood floor, then fumbled for a button to stop the madness.
I called Elise, who was directing the clearout of our old house. “Your new washer? It’s trying to escape.” After a couple more tries we did get the sheets spun, but only with constant vigilance and physical restraint. The scenario played out multiple times over the next few days as we tried to diagnose the issue. Cabinet level? Sure. Cabinet level while spinning? Well, maybe, but it vibrated so badly that the level’s bubble smashed itself into an unreadable smear. Wood floors can resonate, but we were weren’t quite ready to re-run the utility lines to the basement. Fortunately we had the old house for a few more days, so we did our laundry there. But we had to solve this problem quickly.
We saw a recommendation for a stall mat – a dense rubber pad used in horse stalls – and the next weekend Elise procured one. In the process of positioning the mat under the washer, Elise chanced a look at the back of the machine. “Hey, gimme the manual,” she ordered from her perch atop top the washer, hand flailing expectantly behind her, face invisible. I complied, and she flipped a few pages. “I don’t think these are supposed to be here.” She poked at a diagram, and I scanned for the accompanying instructions in a language I could parse: The four shipping bolts must be removed before operation. Violent vibration may occur if the washer is operated with the bolts in place. Sure enough, four hexagonal bolt heads protruded from the back. After a few tries at finding the appropriate wrench size, I spun the plastic-shrouded, hand-length bolts from their perches, installed the protective caps over the resultant holes, and gave our test load another spin. We had found the culprits. The bolts allowed the drum to spin, but restricted the motion of the drum within its suspension mount.
Since then, we’ve had no hint of discontent from the washer or dryer, whose electronics and sleek lines have caused me to dub them Enterprise-W and Enterprise-D. We gradually came to the point where we can now trust them to operate unattended. We also still trust the plumber, but next time, we’ll verify.