Friday, January 29, 2016

Volume 11, Number 2: Adventures in Doing the Laundry, Revisited

Today marks the tenth anniversary of that time I repaired my washing machine.  Here's the story.

I had a load of laundry to do, like I usually do every weekend.  That would have been no big deal, except that a few minutes after I turned on my 10-year-old Whirlpool washing machine, I heard this ticking (or clicking) noise.  I went back to the laundry room to find that the agitator stopped working.  Also, when it got to the spin cycle, it wouldn't spin, either, which meant that not only was my laundry still dirty, but it was soaking wet as well.

I called my mother about the problem.  She suggested that the ticking noise might be a transmission problem and that I might have to get a new washer (since getting a transmission replaced usually costs more than it's worth).

I was pissed off, because getting a new washing machine was not in my budget, which was tight at that time.  I was working a job that barely made ends meet, and I didn't have much money saved up.

Later on that day, I went to a couple different stores to search for a new washer.  I thought I got a very good deal at the second store for an "Estate by Whirlpool" washer for $297, including taxes and delivery, after a talk with the store's manager about wanting to find something with a dent on either side (since the way my laundry room is set up, any dents would be easily hidden by the dryer to the left and the washtub to the right).  According to the tag on the washer, its regular price was at $347.

Once I got back home, I went on the web to get some information on the washer I just ordered.  It didn't retail for anywhere near $347—according to Whirlpool's own web site, the MSRP was $279, so the deal I had wasn't the good deal I thought I was getting.  I wasn't saving $50--I was being overcharged by $18.

The idea that I might be getting ripped off gave me a newfound determination to see if that ticking sound was a transmission problem.  The store manager had mentioned during our conversation that he had black goo leaking from a washing machine he had 25 years previously, as the result of a transmission problem, so I checked under my broken washing machine to see if there was any black or gray goo--nothing there.  In retrospect, by telling that story, the salesman made a mistake that would work tremendously in my favor.

Another web search--something along the order of "Whirlpool washer making ticking noises"--revealed that I was too hasty in jumping to any conclusions about the transmission.  At least two sites said the problem was much simpler: a motor-to-transmission coupler.  It consists of two plastic parts and one rubber part, and is designed to break down so that neither the motor nor the transmission does.  Above all, replacing it would be much cheaper than buying a new washer.  Why I didn't do a web search like that _before_ going to any appliance stores, I'll never know.

I found a web site on how to replace that coupler, and armed with the pictures and instructions from that site, went back to the laundry room to take the washer apart.  I had nothing to lose, after all--the washing machine was broken and would stay that way unless I did something about it.  The process was much easier than I had expected--it didn't include any heavy lifting or disconnecting of hoses.  Before long, I found the culprit--a broken motor-to-transmission coupler.  I looked in amazement--I almost gave up on a washing machine over this over a small part like this?

I spent $20.70 on the replacement coupler I needed.  (I could have gotten it for less, except that I needed them urgently--I needed to find out if I could successfully install it so I could make a decision on whether to cancel the order for the new washing machine.)  A successful replacement job would save me over $276 ($296.99 saved by cancelling the new washer purchase, minus $20.70 for the replacement part order.  Until the new parts arrived, however, my washing machine was in a partially disassembled state, with parts scattered over half of my laundry room floor.

Those new parts came on Wednesday, so that night, I went about the business of removing the broken coupler and installing the new one.  It took me a while to everything back together (I had one part on backwards at one point, and later on, it took me three tries to put the exterior cabinet back on the machine), but after all that trial-and-error, I put in another load of laundry.  The very task of doing the laundry had taken on the feel of an amusement park ride: The building anticipation as the washer filled up with water was somewhat like that you feel on a roller coaster slowing climbing that first uphill grade.  Then the agitator kicked in--no ticking noises, no noises coming from the motor or the transmission sound just as good as they ever have, the agitator worked, and when it reached the first spin cycle, that was exhilarating.  Imagine the relief of finding a long-lost item and the excitement of a roller coaster ride--I experienced both at the same time.

20 years previously, at age 13, I would have simply said, "Let's just get a new one!" without giving any thought to fixing it or having any interest in how the old one worked.  It was easier back when I wasn't the one spending the big bucks.  But in 2006, I found myself doing the 180-degree opposite, doing what I could to keep the washing machine running and save money.

The washing machine repair was successful, and I cancelled the order for the new washing machine.

To this day, I still have and use that Whirlpool washing machine.  It is now 20 years old.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Volume 11, Number 1: Fanfare for the Common Ram

For the first time in a few years, I'm participating in another of Uni Watch head honcho Paul Lukas' Redesign The... contests on ESPN.com. Earlier this month, he invited Uni-Watch readers to submit new design concepts for the newly-relocated Los Angeles Rams (who recently left St. Louis after 21 seasons there).

Although the changes I've made are, I imagine, subtle compared to other designs submitted for this competition, they collectively make for a design that, in my estimation, stands out and can stand the test of time.  Here it is (click on the images to see them in their original size--you'll especially need to do this to see the uniform set in more detail).



The changes I made are as follows:

  1. Color scheme: "Millennium blue" stays, but "new century gold" is out (replaced by yellow). Why? The contrast between the navy blue and the yellow is striking (then again, I would know because my alma mater wears maize and blue). Also, yellow is the color of the sun, so it makes more sense in sunny southern California.
  2. The horns finally have ridges!  Rams' horns have ridges, and earlier LA Rams and Cleveland Rams logos had them as well. When Fred Gehrke painted those horns on the team's helmets in 1948, it would have been too much to ask him to also paint all those little ridges. But here in the 21st century, there are no excuses--we don't use paint, we use decals; furthermore, we have the technology to put ridges on those horns without making a lot of extra work.
  3. Back to the Futura (as in Futura Display). Between 1972 and 1982, the Rams' wordmarks used the Futura Display font. What's more, that font was popular in the 1940s, when the Rams moved to LA from Cleveland. Point being, it's a font you could say the Rams own.  Why not use it for uniform numbers and NOBs? I could understand them not using it three decades ago when almost everybody used block numerals (the Chicago Bears were the lone exception at that time). But times have changed in an era where teams try to look more distinctive.
  4. Tweaking the logo: I decided to make changes to the logo the Rams have been using since their 2000 redesign instead of a whole new one.  First, I changed the colors to match the navy blue/yellow color scheme (see #1 above).  It was after I did this that I noticed something odd.  At that point, the logo looked not so much like a ram as like a horse with no mane wearing a helmet with no facemask that had ram horns painted on it.  So I thought I'd play around with the logo some more, starting with rotating it the horn by -15 degrees. I made a few other minor tweaks as well to the ram's face and the back of its neck.  The final touch: Ridges on the horn, of course! The graphic under this list is meant to give you some idea of how my version of the logo "evolved" from the current version.
  5. Get that Nikelace outta here! In 2012, when Nike took over as the uniform maker for the NFL's teams, they introduced a new collar (officially called the Flywire collar, but hereafter referred to as "the Nikelace") that looked awful on teams whose jerseys have a different-colored collar. Five teams still use the "old" pre-2012 collars for that reason (Packers, Patriots, Falcons, Panthers, Eagles). The Rams should have followed their example. But instead, they went with the partially-colored Nikelace that some fans derisively call "the neck roll." I decided the old collar worked better.
  6. No outlining on the numerals. Although the Rams experimented with outlined numerals in the 1950s (they were among the first NFL teams to do so), and used outlined numerals in their current uni design (2000-present), they generally didn't use them during their first stint in LA, and they don't need to use them now. 
  7. No more white pants stripes.  They seemed out of place on the Color Rush unitards they wore against the Bucs, so I decided to go with one solid yellow stripe on the blue pants, and one solid blue stripe on the yellow pants.


You'll also see a "RETURN TO LA" commemorative patch in my submission. I did it because one of the contest's requirements was that you had to create one.  I'm cool with that, and I'm cool with what I slapped together--it's a take on the eponymous sign for the City of Beverly Hills (the extremely affluent LA suburb), but with the curlicues at the bottom replaced by ram's horns.

This is the first time I've submitted an entry in an ESPN.com-sponsored Redesign The... contest since 2013 (Miami Dolphins).  I didn't submit entries for more recent contests (Vikings, Hornets, Clippers, Blazers) because I simply couldn't come up with anything that I thought would be significantly better than what than whatever they had at that time.

That's all for now.  Thanks for reading.