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Beyond the Fringefan      Man in elevator, about to press button to select floor.
Two dripping scuba divers are also in the elevator.
One diver: "I wouldn't push anything below 'FOUR' if I were you."

BEYOND THE FRINGEFAN recently spent some time and money dealing with a minor flood in his basement at the N.Y. Cadre (phone(718) NY-CADRE); e-mailnycadre@alum.rpi.edu; Webhttp://www.nycadre.org), getting soaked even though he's not rich. It's all better now, and he only had to throw out one box of water-damaged books, though the episode left his liquid assets somewhat drained. This is Beyond the Fringefan #416, for readers of APA-NYU Volume 9, #11 (e-APA-NYU #91) and other undampened spirits, published November 2011 as a combined production of Quick Brown Fox Press and Syscrash Consulting, both subsidiaries of Thigamajig Inc. logo. Cartoon above from Bizarro by Dan Piraro, 8 November 1989. All uncredited material copyright ©2011 by Marc S. Glasser. Member fwa.

SOAKED UNDERWATER, NO FIRE IN THE STY: We've had water in the basement a few times before, when the roof gutters got clogged and rain sheeted down the west wall of the house and leaked in through the windows. (I try to check the gutters more often these days.) When it's happened, the water formed a pool in the area between the furnace to the north and the washer and dryer to the south; the pool was maybe two feet by three feet, half an inch deep, more a nuisance than a danger, and evaporated in a day or two.

     In mid-September, we noticed a pool like that in the basement, even though it hadn't rained in a few days. Worse, the pool didn't evaporate, or was being added to as fast as it could evaporate, though we never saw any water actually dripping or flowing into it. After a week or so, we called Petro, supplier of our furnace and the oil it burns, and asked if a serviceman could come by and check whether we had a leak. Someone came by, checked it out, and said he'd tightened one bolt that seemed damp, but that he saw no sign of significant leakage. He recommended we check out the sewer line running under the basement.

     Digging up a sewer line did not sound like our idea of fun, and with great trepidation I called Jacko, our friendly semi-retired plumber, to ask his help in diagnosing the problem. Jacko (a Haitian gentleman whose given name of Jean-Claude got mangled into his present nickname by Brooklyn residents decades ago) came by, opened up the ports that give access to the U-shaped trap where the sewer line leaves the basement to join the pipes under the street, and verified that we had no blockage there. He said a leak was unlikely where the pool was, if the pipes weren't blocked downstream; besides, the pool didn't stink of sewage. He suspected something was going on with the washer, but I ran a rinse cycle while he was there and saw no new flow. Jacko agreed that digging up the sewer line was the last thing to consider, and suggested I mop up the water (which I'd done once already) and see if we could see any pattern to the subsequent accumulation.

     A couple of days later, someone I trust asked me how old the washing machine is, and when I said more than two decades, she told me about "silent leakage"—which can start happening with washing machines as early as a dozen years into their working life, as various parts start to rust out and the rubber gaskets are no longer sufficient to maintain the seals. I decided it was time to call Sears and have a service person come in and check the washing machine for this syndrome.

     But before I could get around to doing so, that Thursday night, we were alerted to not a trickle but a flood of water coming out of the furnace. We called the oil company again, with some urgency, and a man came by and agreed that there was certainly a problem here. He was able to shut off the boiler and hence the flow of water. His diagnosis: the boiler was rusted out, after a mere seven years. Why? Leaky radiators. The heating system is supposed to be practically a closed system in which water from the boiler goes up to the radiators as steam, condenses as it gives off heat, and then returns to the boiler. Some inevitably leaks out, perhaps five gallons a month in a well-heated house in cold weather, and the boiler takes more in from the plumbing to replace it. But the fresh water contains dissolved oxygen, and that accelerates the process of rusting, which ultimately destroys the innards of the boiler. He said that after we'd replaced the boiler, we needed to check all the radiators out for leaks and replace them as needed. (All the radiators in the house have been here at least as long as we have.)

     The good news was that the boiler, being a mere 7 years old, was still under its 10-year warranty. The bad news was that the warranty didn't cover all the electronics and control mechanisms surrounding the boiler proper, which all got damaged by the leakage. So we ponied up a few thousand dollars the following week to get ourselves a new boiler and associated hardware. We also moved a ton of Stuff around to give access to the radiators to permit inspection for leaks. (That took more work than everything else.)

     I'll skip the details of the four extra visits from technicians over the ensuing week and a half to figure out why the boiler kept spewing steam across the basement. (Turned out there was a short in the control electronics.) It all seems to be working now—knock steam-pipe—and all we need now is to replace six or eight radiator valves declared leaky. Time to call Jacko back.

     There's been no water on the basement floor since the boiler was replaced, so I guess the washer is all right after all. We're due for an annual maintenance visit, though, so we can get an inspection for leakage just to be sure.

EARLY RELEASE PROGRAM: Wednesday afternoon 26 October, Landon, the contact I nominally reported to at the online fashion company, stopped me as I was heading back to my desk from the bathroom and told me the news: the home office in London had decided to cut some costs by having the people there do more of the proofreading (or subediting, as they call it). Consequently, the company would no longer need my services as of the end of that week. He added that this was not a reflection on my work, which had been entirely satisfactory. He added that it was possible that the workload might turn out to be more than the home office could handle, and in that case I might hear from the company again in weeks or months, asking me to come back on a part- or full-time basis, but that was certainly not guaranteed.

           Sales counter with sign: "1,000 BUSINESS CARDS!  $39"
Woman at counter: "A thousand business cards?  
                   Who has that kind of job security?"
(Rina Piccolo for 6 CHIX, 29 September 2010)

     This was a rather earlier end to the assignment than I'd anticipated; I'd expected it to go on for a few more months, until the Long Island City office moved to Mahwah sometime in 2012. But freelance assignments, of course, are subject to termination at the will of either party, so the company had every right to make this decision. Well, ten weeks of steady (and substantial) paychecks are far better than none, and while I'll miss them, I'm feeling pleased at the prospect of being able to sleep past dawn again, even on work days. It's back to awaiting calls from the agencies now...

INFELICITOUS DEVELOPMENT: HeiferCat is not doing well, I'm sorry to report. Earlier this year she was plagued by a persistent fungal infection that caused much of her fur to fall out, and required several veterinary visits and both external and internal medication to vanquish. But follow-up visits turned up new symptoms—anemia, and neuropathy in her Cat boss to cat employee:
  "No, you can't use a sick day just because you threw up.
  If that were the case, we'd have no workforce..." rear legs—that required more (and pricey) diagnostic processes, and we have now been informed that she has a couple of tumors on her liver and a cyst on her pancreas. The tumors and the cyst are benign and slow-growing, and the anemia has responded to treatment; nonetheless, the vet is estimating her life expectancy in months. (We still don't know the cause of the neuropathy, and won't without an even more expensive MRI procedure. The vet says that even if we did, treatment would require surgery, and her condition is fragile enough to cast serious doubt on her surviving it.)

     She's fairly old for a house cat (15 years and some months), so all this is not totally unexpected. The vet has prescribed a number of medications, with the help of which we hope she can enjoy quality of life at least until Ethan gets back next summer.

Fringe Reception: Comments on APA-NYU, Volume 9, #10 (e-APA-NYU #90)

"Most big sailing aircraft were steered or commanded from the back, again like a boat, with a Watcher, or I Abra Cinii {(Hon. n.) Lit. 'One who watches the sky/wind(s)'} posted at the front end." So your title could mean either an astronomer or a ship's lookout. Did people differentiate purely by context? And which occupation was considered more important and prestigious?

ICONOCLAST (Joel Nelson):
(¢Blackman) "I like 'Fannish Standard time.'" It's been around for decades. I was amused to hear analogous expressions used by members of various ethnic groups to suggest that lack of punctuality was endemic to their own groups ("Jewish Standard Time", "Colored People's Time"). /*/ "One sorting hat I found online, with seven questions, said I was a Gryffindor, just like Harry Potter!" I pulled up three different Sorting Hats (there seem to be dozens) and got two Hufflepuffs and a Ravensclaw, for whatever that's worth. /*/ I begin to fear that people who fit your "Normal, Intelligent, Reasonable Adult" designation are so rare as not to be the norm. /*/ You got someone interested in playing roller derby? That either makes you a recruiter (and they owe you a finder's fee if she turns out to be any good) or an enabler (and you should be censured). /*/ Glad to hear that you were able to improve your night driving vision substantially by getting your defective glasses replaced under warranty. I recently accomplished a similar end by applying some Windex to the minivan's windshield. (I'm about due for an optometric check-up, too. Maybe I'll have time now that the Job from Heck is over.)

JAMISON, TAKE e-LETTER (Mark L. Blackman):
"I was informed, btw, that there was an [Order of the Drowned Rat] Facebook page." I just found it. Fred's daughter Tavie set it up and is maintaining it. She's going to have her work cut out for her if she wants the list of Officers on the page to be complete: how many provostships has Fred conferred upon practically anyone who's ever talked books with him? /*/ (¢self) "Sometimes on sit-coms & even dramas, the characters acted in the commercials - Ricky Ricardo Phillip Morris cigarettes (why Arnaz died of lung cancer), Clark Kent & Jimmy Olsen ... & later Uncle Martin & Tim O'Hara would eat Kellogg's cereal." I remember Fred Flintstone smoking Winstons, giving Pebbles a cup of Welch's grape juice, and recommending One-a-Day vitamin pills to Barney. And i.i.r.c., The Beverly Hillbillies added extra verses to the opening theme to shill for Kellogg's and Winston, with accompanying footage of the Clampetts driving past appropriate billboards. /*/ "I couldn't re-caption the SIX CHIX cartoon because, er, I don't get it. Any ideas?" It showed a woman rummaging through a bin of books in front of a used-book store, and next to her a crash-test dummy rummaging through a bin of e-readers. I think it would have worked better if it had been recognizable as a robot rather than a dummy (though there are probably enough electronics in a current-model crash-test dummy to qualify it as a robot). /*/ (¢me) "Btw, ex-NJ filker Rich Bartucci ('Old Gland Liver') was an osteopath." Yes, he ministered to Ethan when he got sick at a con back in the early 1990s, and prescribed an antibiotic. (It was right after that that Ethan began showing symptoms of dairy allergy; we've suspected that the antibiotic was too strong and did a number on The Kid's intestinal flora.) /*/ "So Ethan went back to the jungle, where all the monkeys throw nuts, because if he stayed here he'd go nuts?" In truth, he was more afraid of going nuts if he went back, but he did so anyhow out of sense of duty and commitment. (Also, the area he's in is the mountains, not the jungle. Otherwise, you nailed it.)

"And to cap things off, my iPhone was one of the phones that got borked in Apple's recent OS upgrade." I looked up "bork" and found it defined on Wiktionary as "To defeat a judicial nomination through a concerted attack on the nominee's character, background and philosophy." Pretty nasty, since your iPhone is probably unable to defend itself against such character assassination, but who nominated it and for what judicial position? /*/ "if I can ever get the iPhone unborked, I can make AT&T unlock the phone so that I can just pop my T-Mobile sim card in and use it on T-Mobile's network." I'm sure you can do that and use the iPhone to make and receive calls, but I was unaware that T-Mobile's network is compatible with anything else the iPhone does. Have you the assurance that you'll be able to access the full array of features in that event? /*/

       Boss's secretary: "I need a new phone.  Which one do you recommend?"
Dilbert: "Do you want to be angry about your dropped calls
          or angry about your poor battery life?"
(as secretary pulls crossbow from desk) "Don't hate the messenger."
Secretary: "People similar to you build phones."
(DILBERT by Scott Adams, 29 June 2011)

"The other thing is that when you work freelance, some people think this means you are free to do massive amounts of unpaid favors for them, without regard for your time." Yes, you have to get used to saying "no" repeatedly—something I've never been good at—or perhaps develop a conditioned response of quoting an hourly rate to whoever is asking you for the favor. /*/ (¢me) "I just had a thought - have you thought about having Dr. S treat you?" Actually, I asked Dr. S (Dr. H's partner in the practice) about that the same day Dr. H made it clear that he no longer wanted to treat me. Dr. S said he'd be uncomfortable doing so because of his partnership with Dr. H. I thought about coming back, or calling him, to try to persuade him otherwise, but decided that if he was that reluctant, we'd be getting off to a bad start even if I did change his mind.
Late again, but less late this time. I'll catch up yet! Happy Thanksgiving to all,

>Portions of the preceding voted the other day, but aren't sure why.<

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