On Giants' Shoulders

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Vinegar Solution

It looks like I may have found a low tech solution to a high tech problem. We have this dishwasher that has been the bane of my existence ever since we bought it 5 years ago. Unlike the other dishwashers we've had it frequently left food deposits on the glasses and mugs that were placed in the top rack. It didn't do it every time, but nothing seemed to prevent it. We tried being sure that there were no corn kernels, grains of rice, pieces of pasta on the dishes, yet still the spray arm seemed to manage to get clogged pretty frequently and even when it wasn't clogged (I was rinsing it out after every load) there were still food particles on the glassware.

I tried using Jet Dry. I tried changing dishwasher detergents. I tried gel packs, liquids, tablets. Nothing worked. It was at the point where even nearly pre-washing the dishes (and what's the point of a dishwasher if you have to wash the dishes before putting them in it) wouldn't guarantee that it didn't happen again.

This week I got desperate. I'd tried running vinegar through the dishwasher when it was empty and while that might work for one load, it wasn't working consistently. This week I tried instead filling the rinse dispenser with vinegar before each load. I have now run 6 loads of dishes through the machine and there's been no deposits on the glasses. I think I may have found the solution.

Now the up side of this is that if this continues to work, a gallon of vinegar is cheaper than a small container of Jet Dry (which wasn't working all that well anyway). Since I'd already figured out that baking soda works better for cleaning my stove than Soft Scrub, I'm beginning to wonder if green isn't only better for the environment, but better for my pocketbook as well.

This probably seems like a small annoyance to most people, but if you only knew how much of my time in the past few years has been spent re-washing dishes and listening to the complaints of people when a glass or a piece of flatware didn't come clean, but did end up in the cupboard (I plead nearsightedness for that) you'd know that if this solution works it's going to really improve the quality of life around here.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Right Tools For the Job -Unexpected

I started working on a baby blanket this week. The pattern is similar, although not quite identical to the one that Aunt Drucilla made for my first baby so I was excited to begin it. I got the first twelve rows (all ribbing) done and started on the pattern. Here's where the problems began.I had a hard time knitting two together across the row with the metal needles I was using, but I did manage it. On the next row where it was knit in the front and back of each stitch it seemed to be going ok, but obviously at some point I dropped one of the stitches because when I finally got to the purl across row two patterns later I only had 171 stitches instead of 172. So I had to ravel back and start over again. I got up about two rows again and caught the needle in the belt loop of my blue jeans pulling a bunch of stitches off (obviously these are very LONG needles). I pondered whether people should knit with long needles while wering pants with belt loops. Then I sighed and raveled back again (only to the ribbing of course, it's easy to pick up stitches at that point). I got about 3 patterns up when my stitch count was off again, this time I only had to tink back about a row and a half to find the problem because I was counting a LOT more frequently. I tried to decide what the biggest problem was and I realized that my problems were actually twofold. First these needles were so slick that the stitches slid off way too easily and secondly it was more difficult to manipulate that knit front and back thing and the knit two together thing than I wanted.

Eureka! In my knitting needle collection I had these ugly plastic needles. They were old, came from my mom, and looked vaguely like the very first needles I ever knit with some 50+ years ago (may have even been the first needles I ever knit with). They weren't as slick as the metal ones so might provide just a little resistance to slippery stitches. They were just a tiny bit flexible which would make manipulating stitches just a bit easier. I was right! They work. The blanket is now beginning to take shape. There's a long way to go. I've only knit 3 inches and it's supposed to be 34 inches long when I finish, but it's finally going easily instead of with frustration every other row.

There are lots of old tools out there that people have rejected for being not pretty, old fashioned, not modern enough. Perhaps it's time to dust them off and see if perhaps they actually fit the job you're doing better than some of the shinier, newer options. You might just be surprised.

Friday, March 06, 2009

What Are You Reading, What Are You Watching?

I spent some time lately reading a collection of Dorothy Days journal entries. One of the things that I came away with as an insight was that she was shaped by what she read. When she was reading devotional literature her attitudes reflected it, when she was reading some other types of things her focus became much more political (and sometimes not in what seemed to me to be healthy ways). I've noticed with other people in my life that what they have been reading doesn't just influence their opinions, it also seems to effect their moods. Same with what they are watching on television or for movies. I've noticed the same thing is true for me. It's far harder to focus on simplicity and not get caught up in the worldly models if I spend my time watching What Not To Wear, for example.

I've noticed as Lent has begun and I've been working harder at at least getting the Office of Readings in every day that what's in the daily reading seems to pop up again in some way later in the day. On Sunday I was amazed again at how the readings for the Office tied in with the readings and the homily at Mass. However, I've also been amazed at these serendipitous (or providential) moments on other days as well when other reading I'm doing, something I'm watching on TV, something I hear on the radio, will also tie in with the reading.

Now, I'm not criticizing non-devotional literature, I'm not even abstaining from non-devotional literature during Lent. I just think that it's important to be aware of what we are putting into our minds, just as we focus on what we are putting into our bodies. We can be aware of this when it comes to things like pornography, but less aware of it when it comes to things that stir up feelings of resentment or discontentment. A lot of what passes for news these days seems more designed to stir up emotions than to truly inform. This is true not only in the secular press. It's also true in blogdom. I think that one thing I want to do this Lent is to take a step back and look at what I read and what I watch effects me. I hope I can look at things with the eyes of the Church instead of being simply formed by the world around me. I hope you can do the same.