Sunday, March 18, 2007

Kitchen Range

I cook and bake a LOT, so this is a subject that really matters to me. My theory is that companies who manufacture kitchen ranges know that the majority of American consumers don't cook and bake much, so they can get away with inferior products.

When we bought our house in 1986, it came with a wonderful old Norge gas range. It was terrific (and looked really cool, too). 8 or 9 years ago, it died -- to the point where even Tom couldn't fix it. So we went shopping for a new range. Off to Best Buy.

We're not, by any measure, rich, but quality matters to us. We found what we thought was a pretty good Amana range for about $500. It was delivered and installed. The first thing we noticed was how much we hated the black oven door (even though the rest of the range was white). The way it sits in our kitchen is such that the range is almost the first thing you see when you walk in the front door. It just looked like a giant black hole. The next thing we noticed the first time we tried to cook on it was that the burner plates weren't level (cast iron grates - gas stove). Every pot we set on it wobbled. It was awful, and we knew we couldn't put up with that. So back to Best Buy, where there is a decent return policy (although this happened within 24 hours, so we were pretty sure it wouldn't be a problem).

Armed with an average size pot, we tried every range they had. It was amazing how many of them had the same wobbly burner problem. We finally found a Maytag that had level burner grates, and oddly enough, a beautiful white oven door. It cost about $750, but we figured it was worth it. Sold.

On the whole, this has been a very agreeable range. BUT, there are things about it that just irritate the hell out of me. First and foremost is the fact that our cats have tried to kill us with it on several occasions. The control knobs for the burners turn too easily. The thing is, with an electronic ignition, you have to turn the knobs to a certain point, and it click click clicks, and the burners ignite, then you adjust the flame. If you turn it past that point before they ignite, the gas just comes out without any fire. Several times, our cats jumped up there trying to get to the window, and (accidentally, we hope) turned the knobs. We walked in and smelled gas. Very scary. So now, we have to pull the knobs off whenever we're not using them.

I like a really clean range. This one is very difficult to clean. Within a month, something got between the layers of glass in the oven door and made an ugly drippy thing. The wells where the burners are located are impossible to clean. They're white enamel, and get stained the first time something boils over. Tom's suggestion for the ideal range is that those wells should be black cast iron. It would look cool, be super easy to clean, and durable as all get out.

The only other things I find really annoying is that all the plastic bits (and there are quite a few) really yellow with use (contrasting in an unattractive way with the bright white of the rest of the range), and that the first time I tried to wash the control knobs, the painted markings started to flake off. Oh, and we had to replace the oven igniter about 2 years ago, and now it's making the same noise that means we'll have to replace it again soon.

Like I said, I cook and bake a LOT, and this has been, for the most part an agreeable appliance. It's just that for $750, I would expect a lot more. I certainly don't believe the bit about Maytag repairmen not having anything to do.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Disposable Society

Tom didn't get me his list yet, so I'm going to vent a little about disposable "stuff." There's too much of it. Think about how many things in your house are disposable (and yeah, we've got a lot of them, too). Those little plastic dental floss-pick things? We love them. But we got along just fine without them, and could and should again. Disposable razors? We don't have any of those (Tom is be-whiskered) -- in fact, those are about the dumbest things ever invented. Is it really so hard to change a blade? And a package of blades costs more than a new razor, so go figure.

Those are just little things. It's the big things that we object most to.

Vacuum cleaners that are nearly impossible to repair, even though they're repairable. It's cheaper (and easier) to buy a new one than to even replace the belt. We've had a rental house next door to us for years, and every time a group moved out, a vacuum cleaner ended up in the trash. Tom pulls them out, fixes them, and keeps our kids and their friends in vacuums.

One that has most recently irritated me are ink-jet computer printers. I have a really good Epson printer/scanner that came packaged with my computer. It retails by itself for about $150. Pretty good deal, right? But the damn ink for the thing costs $80 (4 color cartridges). Buy ink twice, and it's cheaper to buy a new printer. Where's the sense in that? I hate to think how many perfectly good printers end up in the land fill.

The one nearest and dearest to Tom's heart (and that he soap-boxed to me about for over an hour this morning) is bicycles. He keeps picking them up and fixing them up. I picture him someday as one of those eccentric old guys who makes sure every kid in the neighborhood has a bike. The thing is, anyone can afford a decent bike at Wal-Mart, and as soon as the least little thing goes wrong with it, they dump it and buy a new one. The most recent one he picked up is a most excellent 70s-era Raleigh, and he pulled it out of a dumpster at an apartment building.

The list goes on and on. We're such a selfish and spoiled society that we just can't be bothered. Those garbage trucks come in the dark of the early morning, and magically cart away the flotsam and jetsam of our "busy" lives.

We have a lady that cruises the alley behind our house every Sunday and Wednesday night (nights before garbage pick-up), looking for anything salvagable. She's been doing it for years, and you'd think she'd figure out that we rarely have anything of interest to anybody in our trash. I guess she gets so much "good" stuff from the neighbors that it makes it worth her while.

This whole issue is the bane of Tom's existence, so I'm pretty sure the topic will show up here again.

Random strange thing I noticed today: The guy behind me at the supermarket was buying 4 giant bales of toilet paper, 12-15 boxes of Kleenex, and 4 cases of Keystone beer. Nothing really wrong with that, I just thought it was weird.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Welcome Fellow Curmudgeons!

Many, many thanks to Melia for setting this up for us. I've been thinking about doing some sort of blog for a long time, so I guess she's "Jo's Enabler." Maybe "facilitator" would be a better term.

Not really sure where to start, there's so much. Jo's all-consuming "gripe of the moment" is that Fred Wilson Jewelers has seemingly lost her mother's wedding ring that they were supposed to be re-sizing. That doesn't really fit with the theme here, though.

Tom's going to start making a list. The one he came to me with today was pretty good, so I guess I'll start there.

Aerosol cans that come with the long, skinny tube thing to supposedly enable you to accurately direct the spray (WD-40, canned air for electronics, etc.). As soon as you start spraying, the tube thing falls out. Aggravating as hell. So, why can't they make the tube thing go in just a little deeper? Nothing like a greasy, noxious substance all over your hand and project instead of the little connection you were aiming for.

That one was maybe a little dull, so I'll go way back in our irritation file and pull out "Progresso Minestrone" soup. It used to be so fabulous that we bought it by the case (literally). Then came the "NEW AND IMPROVED" version. It's vile. We initially thought it would be sort of like the "new" Coke, and they would revert to the old recipe. No such luck, because it's been years now. Damn.

We intend to spice this up with pictures from time to time (after I talk to Melia and find out how to do that). I know it's irritating to some people, but there will undoubtedly be pictures of Raymond and Davey (our cats). We don't want to get too "Andy Rooney-like" here.