metallic dilation and curettage
Monday, December 8 2014
Yesterday at Sarah's birthday party, Nancy had told us all about the current state of her and Ray's bathroom in the aftermath of the retiling job done by Eric (the guy who painted our Wall Street house). After more than a week of detachment, the toilet had been returned to its rightful place atop its closet flange and the backyard had been retired from its service as a human litter box. But unexpected problems had been encountered with the sink plumbing, so the new pedestal sink (actually an old unit bought from an architectural salvage place) had yet to be installed. For Ray and Nancy, this was no problem; their old bathroom in Park Slope had lacked a sink, and they'd lived happily that way for fifteen years. According to Nancy, they were waiting on a plumber they'd called two weeks ago. "Why didn't you just call me?" I'd asked. "Oh, we thought you were busy. Well, Ray thought you were busy," Nancy had said. I'd insisted that I'm actually not all that busy. So we'd arranged for me to come look at the situation at noon today.
Nancy had said something about the rotten stump of a pipe protruding from the wall, and I'd feared I might have to rip open the wall and install PVC all the way down to the basement. So I brought the supplies to do that sort of work. Fortunately, though, after I arrived today (and as the dogs all ran around, overjoyed to be having an unexpected play date), it looked like the plumbing in the wall was sound. But, as Nancy had said, there was a rotten stump protruding from the wall. It was the brass horizontal piece connecting the trap to the plumbing in the wall, and someone had "repaired" it with electrical tape some time before 2010 (when Ray and Nancy had moved in). I didn't know brass could corrode, but I guess given enough years, any metal will. It had rotted completely away in a half-inch-wide line along its bottom. Getting the remains of that pipe out of the way was not easy; the big brass slip nut securing it to the cast iron pipe in the wall had probably last been turned well before I was born. And I didn't have the right tools to turn it. Using one of Ray's flat screwdrivers and a sledgehammer I'd brought, I pounded away at one of the corners of the slip nut until I'd cut a deep gash in it. The nut didn't turn, but something in me refused to give up, and I pounded and pounded without any evidence that the nut was turning. And then, miraculously, it rotated by a couple degrees. After much additional pounding, I backed that fucker off, exposing beautiful brass threads ready to accept clean new plumbing. Before anything new could go on there, though, I first had to extract the remains of the brass pipe. Using a pair of Vise-Grips, I deformed the brass until it let go and could be pulled out. It was the metallic equivalent of a dilation and curettage.
At about that time, Ray and Eric returned from town. Ray immediately had to use the bathroom to go numero dos, but he'd been to Sissy's in Uptown and had bought me a Vegan Delight sandwich for my trouble.
I didn't have a replacement handy for the rotted part I'd extracted, so I had Ray (and Eric) follow me back to my place, where I managed to find a brand new replacement in the plumbing box that I keep in the laboratory (though I keep most of the plumbing stuff in the garage). After I'd found that, the three of us hung out briefly in the living room. Sylvia the cat, who usually plays it cool and relies on her wallflower nature to weather situations when guests are visiting, became a little nervous at the presence of two strange(ish) men nearby. Her behavior in such situations is to climb up to high spot. At first it seemed like the arm of one of the chairs was high enough. But then, horrifyingly, she leapt onto the woodstove, which at that moment was blazing hot. She was on it only for a moment before returning to the floor, but I could tell she'd injured herself. She walked strangely after that, and, once she'd returned to her ottoman, made a meow that sounded like an expression of discomfort. I attempted to put ice on her paws, but she vetoed the idea. Within a few hours, she'd completely returned to normal, and when I finally got a chance to look at her paws, they looked completely normal. The skin on cat paws is evidently thick.
My bad experiences yesterday with the Pogoplug used as a NAS caused me to seek out a way to return to using katydid (the Buffalo router) as a NAS server instead. To make that work, I had to figure out why files being saved to it were not getting their modified dates set. The first thing I did was replace the Buffalo-branded firmware with a more generic DD-WRT firmware, hoping that it would be more up-to-date (or that there would at least be a community behind it that I could complain to). After doing that, it occurred to me that perhaps the router didn't have its clock set correctly. So I issued a date command and was delighted to find that it was set to some time in the early 1970s. "Well, there's your problem right there!" This led me to investigate whether its querying of a time server was working. It wasn't; in fact, the internet was completely unreachable. The problem, the whole problem, was that I hadn't bothered to set a gateway and local DNS. Generally, for a device that operates entirely on a local network, a gateway is unnecessary. But a NAS needs time information, and the Buffalo router lacks a battery-backed realtime clock. It needed to be able to reach the internet in order to properly set the modified dates of files it saved. The experience made me feel a little bit stupid and a very much relieved.
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