Monday, September 19, 2016

The Pest Nest

Of all the problems that I've had with my new house, the worst thing one of many worst things about it is the cockroaches.

Cockroaches! I didn't see that coming. When I first visited the place in May, it was unoccupied and clean as a whistle (or so my selective vision told me). I saw no sign of a roach and didn't even stop to consider that pests might be an issue. When I moved in a month later, I did spy one cockroach, which gave me palpitations, but only mild ones—I'd seen a roach the day I moved into my last apartment, and nothing had come of that. Fast-forward to late July. It was a month after we'd moved in, and suddenly cockroaches were quite literally coming out of the woodwork! (Is that where this phrase comes from?)

This brings me to my moral dilemma. How does a vegetarian who cares for all creatures, great and small, deal with disgusting insects that are invading her home?

Well, every vegetarian has to draw the line somewhere. You can love all living things, but if they don't respect boundaries and they are a legitimate threat to your way of life, then your only recourse is to kill them. I've had to go through the same thing with bedbugs (no one can really blame you for trying to eradicate a pest that feeds on your own body) and ants.

The ants decided my desk at work was the best place for an ongoing party! After trying numerous times to dissuade them with various strongly scented oils, I finally had to resort to extermination. I am not a fan of using baits or poison. They seem underhanded ("Come here little buggy-buggy, I have a treat for you...it's death!") and sadistic (having suffered food poisoning before, I would never wish that kind of fate on anyone!). And the kind of sticky trap that causes animals to rip their own legs off in an attempt to escape is just cruel. Another option I might have mentioned before is diatomaceous earth, a long-established insect killer that works by creating micro-punctures in the animal's exoskeleton, causing it to lose too much liquid to the surrounding environment. I'm not sure death by desiccation is really much better than many others, but at least with a DE barrier, the bugs won't come to any harm if they just stay clear of it and out of my space! So I dusted diatomaceous earth around all the cracks in my window, and soon the ants were gone. Though I was sad about my murderous ways, I could not function at work with ants crawling all over me.

This summer, our house for some reason developed an infestation of flies. I was trying to ignore them, but I was so fed up by the time I went to the Fulton County Fair, I actually picked up a free promotional flyswatter so I could end the constant buzzing around my head. I never needed to put the flyswatter to use, as the flies had pretty much all disappeared by the time I brought it home, and I was relieved to not have to play executioner to countless insects just trying to live their short lives.

Roaches, however, are a whole different story.

This isn't my first brush with cockroaches—when I moved into an apartment for the first time in 2006, I not only met my first cockroach; I met thousands of them. Every night, the roaches swarmed out from the kitchen in droves. They nested in everything. They loved my roommate's laptop so much that they clogged its fan and made it chronically overheat. There were so many cockroaches in that apartment, you could smell them—it is true; they do have a smell. And it wasn't pleasant. It didn't take me long to learn to hate roaches with every fiber of my being—and to show cockroaches no mercy. If I were the type of person to invent mottoes, one of them would be "Thou shalt not suffer a roach to live." 

Since I was seeing roaches with more and more frequency as August drew to a close, I unwrapped a package of cockroach baits. With other insects, I think of baits as a dishonest way to trick a poor unsuspecting animal...but with roaches, I think baits are the only way to get rid of them before they've taken over your whole house. However, the baits aren't working. Not only did one of our stupid dogs find and eat one, causing a brief terror (later we learned that the roach poison is essentially harmless to humans and pets), but they didn't seem to do anything to rid us of roaches. If anything, their population has ballooned! 

In June, I started by seeing a nymph here or there, creeping around the bathroom or the kitchen sink...then it escalated to a nymph or two, maybe every other day...then I started seeing adults scuttling about. Now (especially at night) I find multiple roaches almost every time I enter the kitchen. One horrifying morning, I found three roaches of various ages, just chilling out in the bottom of a saucepan in the drying rack!

I've had to pull out all the stops for this tenacious population. No method of extermination is too gruesome—though I still prefer a good, honest, and quick demise like squashing them to death. That flyswatter has finally come to use after all; I now pick it up every time I enter the kitchen and prepare to do battle. Last night, I took all the contents out of the two cabinets that seem to be harboring the most roaches, and sprinkled diatomaceous earth along all the edges. And if that doesn't slow down the little vermin, my next step will be a combo treatment with borax.

After that? Well, my sincere hope is that it will be nothing. I hope I'll be able to get rid of the roaches and never see one again. Twice now, I've lived in a house where a new resident brought her own little cockroach collection from an infested apartment (one of those times I was that resident - yikes!), but I've never actually faced down an already-established colony of cockroaches. I can only hope that this isn't going to be a multi-month war like the one against the bedbugs.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cohappy Cohabitation

Today, in an uncharacteristic moment of seriousness (oh, wait, we probably were only there for the animated GIFs), my boyfriend and I were discussing this article on Buzzfeed about things you should consider before moving in together.

Now, you should probably know that my boyfriend and I never really, officially, moved in together. We've been a couple for 3 and a half years. Sometime near the beginning of that era, my boyfriend invited himself over to my house and never left. Slowly, his collection of clothing and sporting equipment migrated from his former homes (he is the legal owner of his parents' house and had a lot of stuff there, but was living at his sister's house next door when I met him) to mine. I cleared off a space on my bookshelf for his clothes...then I cleared off a shelf in the linen closet...then I bought a wicker hamper for the clothes that were ending up all over the floor...then I bought him a wardrobe from Ikea.... Now, in the third home we've lived in together, he has his very own man-cave (his clothes are still strewn all over the room that he tells me is mine). But after all this time, his official address is still his parents' house in another city.

The aforementioned little tidbit is only tangentially related to the real subject of this post, which is things that couples should do/expect before they officially move in. We went through the list and concluded we're actually pretty good at living together, despite never having actively made a decision to do it. We fell into most of the habits listed in the article naturally. There were only a few things that really stuck out as something we have done differently or could still do differently.

4. You may fight more at first and that is TOTALLY normal.

Though we are very, very different, Al I, oddly, hardly ever fight. Of course, I whine and complain and occasionally get quite snippy when I've asked him to do something 5 times and his answer is always "I was going to do it." (When? 30 years from now?) But getting to the point where either of us is raising our voice, crying, or so frustrated we feel the need to run away, hardly ever happens. I can think of maybe only 3 times we've ever had a real argument. Does this mean we are just burying our problems? Does it mean that we don't take our relationship seriously? Or does it mean we're just responsible adults who know how to deal with our conflicts in a mature way? I think it mostly comes down to Al's being exceptionally easy-going...but I'm happy to take at least some of the credit if I can.

7. Consider opening a joint bank account and splitting the bills evenly.

Three years into our coexistence, we are still 100% financially independent. We have settled (mostly tacitly) into a system of sharing the expenses that seems to work for us. Sometimes we pay more and sometimes we pay less, but we always pay for the things that matter to us the most. I pay for our housing; Al pays for the utilities. I used to pay all the utilities as well, but when he started turning our home into an electronic wonderland and constantly wanted to fiddle with the thermostat, I asked him to pick up the utility bills (now I just pay for water). When we travel, one of us gets the airfare; the other gets the lodging. Al pays for almost all our food (since he loves to splurge on gustatory experiences), and I pick up the tab when we shop at Rugged Wearhouse and the thrift store (since I'm the holder of the loyalty cards). 
Keeping our finances separate keeps us from arguing. If Al wants to blow his whole paycheck on a slightly larger (already too-large) television...well, it's his money. And if I want to blow my whole paycheck on — well, nothing, because I would never do that! — but if I did, Al wouldn't try to interfere.

14. Get all your pet peeves out on the table ahead of time.

I'll admit it, I'm a peever. Everything annoys me. Everything.* If I had bothered to list out all my pet peeves to my boyfriend before we started dating, we'd probably still be having that conversation today. But today, when I asked him, "Do you have any pet peeves?" he was like, "Yeah! ... I just can't think of any right now." I reiterate, one of Al's best qualities is that he's so easy-going, which makes him a perfect match for someone as high-strung as me. So when I find something is annoying the dickens out of me, I try to remain calm, ask Al to do things differently, and usually he does. Or at least he tries.

17. Talk about your standards for what “clean” is, and figure out a plan for how things around the house will get done.

Cleaning is probably the number-two cause of conflict in our relationship (number one is our differing definitions of punctuality). I like everything neat and tidy and orderly, and Al just doesn't care. He throws his dirty clothes everywhere. He never grooms his dogs or cleans up their fur. I usually pick up after him silently, until the point where I feel like I'm working all the time while he's sitting like a lump playing video games, and then I have a minor fit. This doesn't count as an argument, because he doesn't try to justify his slovenly behavior, and he always makes an effort to clean up after that...but it always happens again. 
I have come to a sort of understanding about this situation—he will mow the lawn** and I'd better just expect to do pretty much everything else (or prepare to do a lot of nagging***). This is not an equal division of labor by far, but he devotes lots of energy and money to finding us fun things to do in our free time, so I have gradually come to the conclusion that in our relationship, I'm the one who keeps the home fires burning, and he's the one who keeps the party going. In fact, that was Advice Point #18: "And while it may be frustrating, don’t expect things to always be 50-50."

35. Last but not least, make sure to hide the Oreos.

This is a funny, trivial little point that was thrown into the article mostly for humor's sake, but oddly enough, it touches on one of the things that has changed in my life significantly since living with my significant other. To understand it, you must understand that I'm a very introverted introvert who's been living in group houses for much of my life. This means that I was fully immersed in a situation that made me uncomfortable pretty much every day. My only retreat from the constant communing was whatever little room I had to call my own. But sometimes an introvert gets hungry. And doesn't want to brave the social gauntlet that can be the trek from the bedroom to the kitchen and back again for some much-needed solitary snacks. So I got in the habit of keeping a stash of food in my bedroom, so I could eat whenever I wanted to without having to worry about seeing other people. When my boyfriend started living with me, he took the place of my housemates, and I very slowly got used to the idea of living with someone I actually felt comfortable with. It felt like kind of a victory when I recently realized I was keeping almost all my food in the kitchen instead of squirreling it away in the "snack drawer" that I still keep next to my desk. I am pleased to have ended up in a relationship where I have no need to hide the Oreos. It helps that my boyfriend seems to have no interest in Oreos.

* Originally this was going to be a post about my peeves, and somehow it has morphed into a dissertation about how my boyfriend and I live.
** On mowing the lawn: I've always held disdain for the way work around the house is divided into "men's" and "women's" jobs. E.g. women do the cleaning, men do the "handy" stuff like changing light bulbs and fixing dripping faucets...men do the mowing and women do the gardening. I always prided myself on being self-sufficient, and when I shared a home with a male housemate for 3 years, I did most of the mowing and almost all the repairs. Yet my boyfriend has taken quite an interest in the lawn (I'm pretty sure it has a lot to do with the shiny green Ego mower that cost me an arm and a leg). So I let him have his macho chore, because if he's willing to take the initiative to do anything without prompting (I still have to remind him, because he's a procrastinator), I'm all for it! But I still end up doing most of the repairs.
*** On nagging: Once upon a time, in my young idealistic years, I thought I would be the perfect girlfriend/wife—understanding, not demanding, and never the kind of person who gets referred to as a "ball and chain." When I saw women in movies griping things like, "the furnace has been broken for three weeks; when are you going to do something about it?" I cringed inside. If I wanted my furnace fixed, I wouldn't pester my husband to fix it; I'd figure out how to do it myself! Well, as it turns out, even if you can figure out how to fix your furnace yourself, that just means one more task that's been laid on your shoulders. Some task that you're going to do while your lazy other half does absolutely nothing. Some people (cough! Al!), I have learned, are not self-motivated. Some people need a fire lit under them. Unless you want to be doing everything on your own, you might have to be that fire, and learn to practice the fine art of nagging. Believe me, it's not easy. It requires a thick skin and lots of patience, but with a little effort, you can succeed in getting your sometimes-too-easygoing partner to be helpful.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Lenny & Larry's Complete Cookie: Birthday Cake


 Another day, another underwhelming vegan cookie.

Unlike my last vegan cookie, this one blared its list of special qualities right on the wrapper: no eggs, no dairy, no soy, non GMO...with so many "no's" on the label, it's pretty much a given that there will be "no" enjoyment as well.

But I bought it anyway, because it also boasted 8 g of fiber and 16 g of protein, which brought it into the realm of semi-healthy breakfast food, and anyway, I love a good Giant Cookie challenge. I might have also been reeled in by the appetizing-looking picture on the wrapper.

Sadly, the actual cookie was but a disappointing simulacrum of the picture on the package, with none of the visible texture, and even the sprinkles being flattened to almost nonexistence.


It did not improve with the eating.

My first impression was of a sour taste, rapidly becoming my clearest clue that I'm eating a vegan cookie. Since it was essentially a sugar cookie, there wasn't really any other flavor than that...but there was texture—a strange texture that was both dry like the desert and soft like a pillow (I'm having flashbacks to the Acadia Park cookie!). Come to think of it, pillows are dry, too, so that may become my new standard for a vegan cookie.

Show me a vegan cookie that doesn't remind me of a pillow, and I'll show you an impressed Giant Cookie Reviewer.

The Bottom Line

Taste: 1 out of 5 stars
Texture: 2 out of 5 stars
Price: I could easily check the price for this cookie, as I got it at Smoothie King just across the street from my workplace, but I'd rather post now and ask questions later, so you'll just have to wait til some other time to get my (doubtlessly unfavorable) assessment of the cost.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Glue Reviews / What Glues to Use

 
As a DIY-hard crafter, I have a pretty impressive collection of glues. My glue stash is so sizable that I have devoted an entire drawer in my plastic 3-drawer rolling cart to "Adhesives." This includes tape (of which I have the masking, the duct, the sport, and the packing varieties), and I've also thrown in a few other bottles of household fluids there because they don't fit into a better category—WD-40 (the exact opposite of an adhesive) and foam insulation. But the glues! I have become quite a connoisseur of glues over the years, and today, I thought I'd share what I've learned with those a little newer to the gluing game.

Hot glue

Probably the first glue I fell in love with (yes, we of the more geeky persuasion do fall in love with glues), hot glue first hit my radar at the young age of 7 or 8 thanks to my Girl Scout troop leaders. My fair share of finger burns later (I can't believe they trusted us with such a dangerous weapon in 3rd grade!), I was hooked. My mom purchased a hot glue gun for the family, and it has been in my arsenal ever since! Hot glue is useful when you want to glue two things together and have the glue set quickly. Because it is bulky and messy, however, it is not so great for gluing small pieces, or for use in places that will get a lot of scrutiny. It also fails to bond to the vast majority of materials, (including pretty much all non-porous ones), so any attachment you create with hot glue should be considered more or less temporary. I like to use hot glue for quick-and-dirty crafting—assembling Halloween costumes, for example. It's also great for when you need a big blobby lump of glue, to actually form an architectural element in your project.

Tacky Glue

Another crafter's standby, Aleene's Tacky Glue is tried and true for many applications. Like hot glue, it works well only on porous materials. Unlike hot glue, it takes a lot longer to set, but it can be applied with much greater precision. The "Tacky" in its name is its greatest strength—because it's a thicker glue, the items you are gluing are more likely to stay in position until the glue has set...and once it has, it forms a waterproof bond. I use Tacky glue mostly for projects involving fabric (it's not a fabric glue, but it works just as well).

Epoxy

Around the time I graduated from college, I learned, from a friend who built model airplanes, that epoxy was the glue of choice if you really wanted to glue two things together and have them stick. Especially if the two somethings were somethings like metal. At first, I was a little intimidated by epoxy, because you have to actually mix a hardener with the adhesive, but that actually makes epoxy an ideal glue to have around, because it will never dry up in the bottle! Epoxy's pros are that I've never found any two substances it couldn't bond, and it's tough and dries hard. Its cons are that it's a little inconvenient to use, in that you have to mix it in a separate container before you can use it, and if your mixture ratio is a little off, you will get glue that never hardens. I use epoxy for repairing metal jewelry, and as a replacement filler for molded plastic (it's currently holding the wheel of my office chair into its broken socket, and I've also used it as a replacement for the heel tip on oddly shaped shoe heels).

Gorilla Glue

When I worked at the grocery store, my colleagues swore by Gorilla Glue, which I had never heard of up until that point. When I finally did give it a try, I was underwhelmed, although it does have its uses. Gorilla glue's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness—as it cures, it foams up, expanding into any cracks it's been placed into. This is great when you need to fill gaps, but it's terrible for precision applications. My friend's mom once used it to repair a broken china figurine of mine—it came back with brownish foam protruding from all the cracks. I also find Gorilla glue to be less strong than some glues—do not use it in places that will be subject to a lot of torque. What is it good for? Large-area applications. I am currently using it around the house to hold pieces of wood to various other surfaces.

Spray Adhesive

You've seen spray adhesive come up numerous times in my other blog—I've used it to hold up my socks as well as to make various paper and fabric crafts. In all those projects, I was using an old can of spray adhesive that I'd had since graduate school, where we were advised to use the substance to affix our design samples to mat board for presentation. So I can thank my master's degree for my knowledge of the strengths of spray adhesive: it is excellent for attaching one large flat, flexible surface to another one. Spray adhesive forms a thin, even coat that is unlikely to bleed unless you really overdo it. Objects with spray adhesive on them can usually be repositioned a couple of times before the glue loses its tack. But a big downside of this glue is that it is messy! It's hard to keep the aerosolized glue from settling onto everything in the vicinity (my design school actually had a gluing room, which was sticky from floor to ceiling due to all the overspray!), so when my last can of spray adhesive ran out, I haven't been in a hurry to replace it. I think I'm going to settle for rubber cement in the future.

Rubber Cement

My first encounter with rubber cement was when my mom created her influential dining table Halloween costume. She used rubber cement to affix plastic utensils to her tablecloth, and I was amazed, because up until that time, my experience of glue was limited to Elmer's School Glue, which as we all know, does next to nothing. Rubber cement is pretty awesome because it retains a degree of stickiness even after it dries. It dries faster than white glue, and because it comes with a brush, it can be applied in a thinner layer. I prefer rubber cement for all my paper-attaching needs, and I'm experimenting with using it to hold my clothes up (temporary verdict: it doesn't work as well as spray adhesive, but it is easier to remove from your skin.)

E6000

I can thank Pinterest for introducing me to this second-newest addition to my Glue Gallery. All the crafters who post tutorials involving attaching rhinestones to anything always recommend using E6000 glue for the purpose. If you don't know much about rhinestones, generally they have a very smooth shiny back which can be quite hard to stick to anything. So, intrigued, I bought a tube of the stuff. It says right on the label that it's industrial-strength, which sounds pretty good to me. I haven't had a lot of opportunity to use E6000 for very many applications, but so far I've reattached a couple of shoe soles with it, and they haven't come apart yet.

5-Second-Fix

Normally, I'd be the last person to purchase something emblazoned with an "As Seen on TV" label, but recently I made an order that needed a few more items to qualify for free shipping, and the 5-Second-Fix was a pretty low price, so I threw a tube of the stuff into my virtual cart. So far, I can't say I regret my purchase. It seems to work the same way as dental fillers do (it might even be the same substance my orthodontist used to attach my braces!)—the glue remains liquid until you blast it with the attached UV light, and then it takes only 5 seconds to cure. For the limited amount of time I've had to try it, I have to say this glue is pretty awesome. Like hot glue, it dries fast, but unlike hot glue, it only dries when you're ready to dry it. Like epoxy, it bonds to a wide variety of materials and seems to form a strong, clear bond, but unlike epoxy, you don't have to pre-mix it and can use an infinitesimally small amount right out of the tube. My first and only use of this glue was to repair and reconstruct a couple of pairs of earrings, for which it worked like a charm—until the pair I repaired fell on the floor a week later and broke in the same spot... but I'll give the glue the benefit of a doubt—I might have just not applied it adequately. There are apparently lots of similar products on the market, so when it comes time to replace my 5SF, I might just look for a cheap generic.

Other options

I have other glues in my collection as well, but they are for really limited uses, but here's a quick rundown:
  • Elmer's glue stick (good for almost nothing except temporary bonds of flat porous materials like paper and fabric)
  • School glue (being water-soluble even when dry, it's only good for temporarily bonding things that you later want to wash out. I got it to use as a substitute for wax-resist in fabric dyeing, but haven't actually tried that yet)
  • Temporary Fabric glue (When sewing, you can use it for basting instead of pins, which fall out, or a basting stitch, which my sewing machine doesn't have. Fabric glue is a little tackier than traditional white glue, so it attaches things more quickly and securely)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Acadia National Park chocolate chunk cookie


Most of my Giant Cookie reviews tend to be of cookies I acquired in far-off places. It is a truly special occurrence when someone else brings me a Giant Cookie they acquired in a far-off place! Such was the case when one of my friends went to Maine and returned with this Acadia National Park chocolate chunk cookie. I really hoped this would be the best Giant Cookie I ever tasted, since he went to such effort for me, but sadly, that was not to be.

In fact, it was one of the most disappointing Giant Cookies I'd ever eaten.

My first bite tasted weirdly sour, with a syrupy taste that seemed familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. It was still sweet, but not quite as sweet as you'd expect a cookie to be.

The texture was soft, which I usually like, but in this case, it was just too uniform. Even the chocolate chips felt doughy when I bit them. Usually a softer texture goes hand-in-hand with a little more durability (think the fable of the reeds and the oak), but this cookie began falling apart as soon as I took it out of the package!

The sour note to the taste, the soft yet crumbly texture...I began thinking that this cookie had all the hallmarks of a vegan cookie!

It is unusual for a cookie company to sell a vegan cookie without advertising it as such, but when I checked the ingredients list on the back, I found that it was, indeed, made with egg substitute (and actually manufactured by the Wildlife Cookie Company). That explains a lot.

You can't hold vegan cookies to the same standard as good-old egg-based ones, but to try to pass one off to an unwitting customer without making its "special" nature obvious, that's just asking for a disappointed customer!

In spite of being a gift, this cookie still had the price tag on the back, so I know that it cost 3.99$ for 114 grams. That makes it 3.5¢ a gram... or, a rip-off, even by vegan standards!

The Bottom Line

Taste: 2 out of 5 stars
Texture: 2 out of 5 stars
Price: 1 out of 5 stars

In spite of all my negative words about this cookie, I still appreciate the gift, and want to assure all my readers that if they were thinking of bringing me a new and exciting Giant Cookie, to not be discouraged by the possibility that I won't like it. Not liking things is what reviewers do best!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Equidigital

Today is the momentous occasion of my 33rd birthday. What makes it so momentous?* Well, all the digits in the number are identical! That only happens once every 11 years (or less, if you happen to live past 111), so it's definitely something to celebrate.

However, in searching for a word to describe such an occasion, I found that none exists! Really! None! In this world where we like to assign especial importance to some ages (e.g. 40) over others (e.g. 23), it seems astonishing that there's not a word to describe this special set of birthdays. Certainly, birthdays like 33, 55, and so on are palindromes (and many people make special recognition of palindrome birthdays), but so is 101, and that – though very impressive in many senses including its acknowledgment of sheer longevity – isn't a number where all the digits are the same. Although it has been suggested (probably by just one person trying to be funny) that we use the word "schnaplefest" for this type of birthday, that hardly seems to be common usage, and it still doesn't describe the number itself—just the celebration of the corresponding birthday.

So what is the word for a number in which all the digits are the same? As far as I can tell, in this vast and ever-growing language we call English, there is none! I am completely floored by this simple and fundamental gap in our collective vocabulary. But I have a solution. We'll make a new word!

And it's going to be "equidigital!"

In thinking about this neologism, I really got attached to the prefix "iso," which means "equal" and is Greek in origin. I originally decided on "isodigital," but "digit" is Latin-based, and my purism just wouldn't allow me to combine languages like that! Fortunately, "equ" is a Latin prefix, and means (unsurprisingly) "equal" as well! If you want to be really strict about it, most words with an "equ" prefix seem to refer to a sense of balance between two things rather than unlimited comparable identities, but in a strictly literal translation, "equidigital" means "having equal digits," and it has a better ring to it than other possibilities I considered. When you're making a new word, you have to make sure it's catchy and pronounceable, after all!

So, happy 3rd equidigital birthday to me! I can't think of any better present than a brand-new word!

*Another reason this year is momentous is that I'm exactly half the age of my dad! That only happens once in a lifetime!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How not to replace your dishwasher

Here is a fun and cautionary tale of my first experience in installing a home appliance! If you are looking for valuable tidbits of advice and not an epic narrative, scroll down to the bottom for my hard-won conclusions!

I knew from Day 1 that the dishwasher in my new house didn't work. Fortunately, my house came with a home warranty, and I had high hopes that I'd be able to use said warranty to get the dishwasher replaced. Supposedly, after you pay a 100$ deductible per service visit, this home warranty pays for the repair of mechanical failures of appliances and certain other things. However, it rarely pays for what you need it to pay for, and I caught on to that pretty quickly after reading just a few reviews of the warranty company online.

So, I got a little insurance for my warranty: I bought a used dishwasher on Craigslist for 40 dollars. My plan: I would call the warranty company and have someone come out to look at the dishwasher. If the warranty wouldn't cover its replacement (not just repair, because this dishwasher was so rickety and rusty and horrendous that I didn't want to use it even if it could be fixed), then I'd ask him to install the new dishwasher for me.

Sadly, that didn't work out. He ran the old dishwasher, explained that the machine was working but not draining, that fixing the drain hose would not be covered by the warranty, and that he couldn't install the other dishwasher OR disconnect the old one unless I wanted to pay a couple hundred dollars for the service. I didn't. I sent him on his way, and resigned myself to learning how to install a dishwasher.

One of my friends, who had never installed a dishwasher either, but was inexplicably interested in the "learning opportunity," offered to help. So together, armed with an arsenal of YouTube videos and step-by-step internet articles, we began. For those who are as clueless about dishwashers as I was before I began this, the installation of a dishwasher is a theoretically simple task. It involves connecting 3 wires, one hot water supply hose, and one wastewater drain hose. We already had the supply hose and the drain hose from the previous dishwasher, so all we really needed to do was disconnect them from the old dishwasher and reconnect them to the new one. My friend was confident that we were going to be able to do it. I was equally confident that everything was going to go wrong. I'll let you decide who was more right.

Installation attempt 1

We had all the tools needed for a proper installation, except for electrically. Since I didn't have a circuit tester, we just had to trust that I'd actually found the right breaker down at the circuit box. My friend had lots of fun pretending to be electrocuted when he went to disconnect the old wiring. Ha ha. 

When we got the old dishwasher disconnected and went to put the new one in its place, we ran into some problems, some of which just involved annoying amounts of extra labor. This is going to be a long story, so I'll spare you all the agonizing details, but the most serious problem was that the drain hose that we had was too big for the drain outlet stub on the new dishwasher. There was a second, capped stub that was a better size, but we didn't know what to do with the smaller one of we opened that one. We tried a series of solutions including cannibalizing a bit of hose from part of the old dishwasher, which we thought could be used as an adapter. Unfortunately, all it did was come apart the moment we put the new dishwasher back into its space. I can't even remember all the things we tried to make this too-small stub fit the too-big hose, but I do know that none of them worked, and after a couple of hours monkeying away, we gave up.

At this point, I turned the water to the sink back on and noticed the flow had decreased dramatically, as if my house were deliberately rubbing salt in my wounds. Fortunately the flow spontaneously returned to almost normal after a few hours.

Installation attempt 2

The next week, I went to a plumbing supply store and bought two parts, at a cost of 18 dollars, to try and solve the problem. They didn't. But they did cause me to close my water shutoff valves a second time, and this time, the water never started flowing again! I waited a day and then reluctantly called the warranty company to get me a plumber.

Installation attempt 3

Surprise! The warranty didn't cover the cost of fixing the sink, but the plumber was nice enough to take some time to do it as an independent contractor. He even tried to help me with the dishwasher. He didn't have any trouble connecting the too-large drain hose (he just kept clamping it until it was snug—Occam's Razor in action!) but when we ran the dishwasher, we found it was leaking from someplace other than either of the drain outlets. Fail! Again! He advised me to just get a new dishwasher, because even if we could find the source of the leak, this one was old as the hills and probably not long for this world. 

So let's take a step back and tally what this dishwasher issue had cost me so far: 40 for the dishwasher, 18 for the useless parts, and innumerable hours (OK, probably around 4) that we'll never get back! Also 220 dollars for the plumbing work that wouldn't have been necessary if I hadn't been constantly fiddling with the shutoff valves while failing to install the dishwasher. We're up to 278 dollars. 

Installation attempt 4

Having thrown away 278 dollars, I was especially resistant to buying a full-price dishwasher and bringing my grand total to around 700 dollars, so I started shopping around for used dishwashers again, this time at actual stores that have a return policy. I found Community Forklift, which is a local store selling reused construction materials and appliances. They were having a 30-percent-off sale, so I booked it over there and found a large selection of dishwashers of various ages! One of them looked newish, came with both a supply hose and a drain hose, and was only 25 dollars, so I bought it for 18 dollars (after discount) and prepared myself for another round. P.S. I'm totally sold on shopping at Community Forklift for all my future home-improvement needs.

This time, having a new drain hose that came with the second new dishwasher, I knew I had to disconnect the old drain entirely. I had learned in the research phase of this project that there's a plug inside the garbage disposal, where the dishwasher drain connects, and it has to be removed before hooking up a dishwasher. Part of me suspected that it hadn't been, but I'd ignored the disposal end of things during my previous attempts because I felt like the disposal was too far back in the sink and would be hard to access. But I knew I couldn't ignore it any more. And, surprise! It wasn't actually hard to access at all. And, surprise again! The disposal plug was indeed still intact, meaning that we could have installed brand new dishwashers until kingdom come and they never would have drained. Sigh.

I read a couple of tutorials on how to remove the dishwasher plug from a disposal that was already installed, and, feeling confident that I could do it, followed the instructions. But then, once the plug had been knocked into the body of the disposal, I couldn't find it! I reached around with my hand, digging into the slime of disposed items past, and there was no plug. No bits of plug. Nothing. But when I ran the disposal, I could hear it grinding raucously like it was about to explode! Thinking that maybe the plug had somehow gotten into the motor of the disposal, I removed the unit entirely with the help of still more tutorials. I shook it upside-down. Nothing. I looked inside. Nothing. I looked inside with a flashlight. Nothing. I turned the rubber drain cover completely inside out, looked inside with a flashlight again, and finally found the little plastic piece of drain plug trapped between a blade and the wall of the disposal. Once I knew where it was, it was simple to get out—I definitely hadn't needed to remove the entire mechanism.

By this time, my partner in appliance installation had arrived for our 3rd joint attempt, so he helped me put the disposal back, and we set out to install the dishwasher.

Annoyingly, the supply hose that had come with the dishwasher was the wrong size for our plumbing, so we had to painstakingly remove the 90-degree fitting (that's a thing in dishwashers) from the second dishwasher, where we'd haphazardly installed it after removing it from the first dishwasher, and jam it into place on the third dishwasher. Of course it took several attempts to get that right. Fortunately we were old pros at hooking up the drain line by this time, so that part was a piece of cake. Then it was finally time to run the dishwasher. And it worked! It didn't leak! It drained! It seemed perfect! Except for one little thing. 

It wasn't secured to the countertop, and consequently fell out of its cubby whenever the door was opened too vigorously. And of course, it was a tad too tall, so when it was jammed into place, the door wouldn't shut any more. To make it fit, I decided to shave away some of the wood under the countertop. Since the dishwasher was already taking up most of the work space in that area, and there was no way I was going to unhook it another time, I had to find a way to do some extreme carpentry in a very small space. I ended up drilling a couple dozen holes into the wood, creating a line of perforations which weakened it to the point where my boyfriend could splinter it off using brute force and a screwdriver. It was messy. It was smelly (the wood burned when I drilled it). It took about an hour.
A closeup of our artistry
 And after all that work, I found that even though the dishwasher had some clearance under the counter now, the door still wouldn't shut when the unit was actually screwed into place! Forced to explore alternative solutions, I then discovered that the latch could be bent into a position that allowed the door to pass smoothly. Meaning I had just wasted half the morning mutilating my counter for no reason. 

The fruit of 3 weeks of labor
But after that, we were finally, well and truly, finished with the dishwasher. It works!
And I've learned a valuable lesson: Never try to install a dishwasher without professional help.

Haha, just kidding. I'd do it again...if someone held a gun to my head...but I'm sure it would be a lot easier the 5th time around, since I actually did learn some valuable lessons. Here they are.

Conclusions

1. If you're going to install a dishwasher for the first time, try to make it a new one that comes with a connection kit. When you don't know what you're doing, minor incompatibilities in parts can turn into total stumpers. And plus, if you are installing a new dishwasher, you can get phone support from the manufacturer.

2. If you are going to buy a used dishwasher, at least take the time to ask the seller some questions. Where's the drain hose? What size nut is on the water supply hose? What's this thing do? Sure, it can feel awkward to look like an idiot, but the awkwardness will be over soon, and you'll be much better prepared for the actual installation, which is the real hard part.

3. Don't assume something won't work without actually trying it. We never bothered to try to connect the drain hose to the small stub because I just assumed it would leak. But if we'd only tried that, the most obvious solution, from the beginning, we could have potentially saved ourselves hours of work and damage caused by repeatedly removing and replacing parts.

4. Likewise, don't assume something does work without testing it. If I hadn't been so afraid to take the drain hose off the garbage disposal right from the outset, I might have actually gotten the very first dishwasher to drain without having to go through Four Impossible Installation Attempts.

5. And lastly, if you're doing this installation in an old house, don't overtighten your water shutoff valves! Dealing with a little trickle of water during installation is preferable to having to replace your shutoff valves and faucet because you broke them.