Art School: Semester 3, Week 5

Once again you get to delve into the life and mind of someone whose hinges aren’t all fully screwed down. Or something. You might particularly appreciate that as you read the story I tell in the section about my English class below.

But first, it’s been an interesting week. We had some real rain starting early on Thursday morning, and as far as I can tell the roof patch I think I’ve previously mentioned is holding. So that problem seems resolved. Combine that with the (also previously mentioned) new water supply line to the house and things are definitely getting better.

This past week also saw me finish getting my teeth cleaned. (It took three visits, and a lot of time. I’m old and have bad teeth thanks to orthodontia done in the dark ages. Parents, make sure your kid’s orthodontist has a clue, and was educated after the turn of the millennium.) Part of that cleaning included the ritual scolding for maintaining my teeth incorrectly. This happens every time I get a new dentist, and I am used to it by now. But I’ll take the advice of the hygienist to heart and do what she wants. At least until I forget.

But she wants me to use an electric toothbrush. OK, fine. I can do that. I even have an old one that I used to use that might still work. But — and here’s why this is a problem — there isn’t any power in any of the bathrooms in the house.

Well, that’s not exactly true. There isn’t any remotely convenient power, and these bathrooms are, well… a bit weird. (I am sure I’ve mentioned this is an old and funky house, right?)

So I am trying to figure that out.

Anyway, the other house story that I need to tell is about the dishwasher. I promised that to you last week.

When we rented this place, we were told the dishwasher was new. I have learned to take such statements with a grain of salt. It was, in fact, newish. Probably about a year old, I’d guess. The previous tenants had clearly used it.

OK, so it was only newish. Fine. We moved in and started loading it up. After all, how hard can a dishwasher be? But given there are only two of us and our first meal was take out consumed on paper plates, it took a couple of days for us to get to the point where we needed to run it.

Some morning I was out somewhere and Anne fired it up. It ran, apparently, but when I got home Anne told me it was acting up. Some kind of error code that wouldn’t clear. She’d looked it up in the manual and it said there was a leak in the water supply.

That’s not good. I tried turning it off at the breaker to reset it, but that didn’t help. Still showed the error code when turned back on. I took the toe kick panel off and found a bit of water on both sides, down by the front feet of the unit. Not a lot, but some. And there was no water where the water supply connected to the unit. Odd, but it was clearly leaking somewhere.

I got in touch with the landlord and told her what I’d found. She setup an appointment with an appliance repair place, but after a day changed her mind and told me that the plumber would be over to take care of it, since it was “new,” and this sounded like an installation issue to her.

Three days went by, I think, with no word from the plumber. We were hand washing dishes and the dishwasher was off at the breaker box. Finally I had a bit of time and decided to take a closer look to see if I could figure it out and get us back online without a longer wait for the plumber.

This is clearly a cheap dishwasher, made by Samsung. We’ve purchased a couple of dishwashers in the past, and this is not a brand that had ever been recommended. But it’s a rental, so fine. I looked at it more closely. The water had all dried up by this point, and I saw no sign of any issues on the floor. But the door was definitely odd: it didn’t latch closed. Not at all.

As I say, we’ve bought some dishwashers in the past. They all had lock mechanisms that you deliberately engaged when you wanted to run the unit. The idea that you’d just close the door and hit the buttons was new to me. I assumed that there must be some automated mechanism that would engage the door lock while the unit was running.

I flipped the power back on and discovered the error code had cleared now that everything was dry again. So I pressed the buttons to start a cycle and observed.

The door did not latch.

No, really. Not at all. You could open the door while the arms were spinning and spraying water all over if you wanted. Bad idea, obviously, but you could.

And, of course, since the door didn’t latch, given enough time it would leak water out around the sides, and cause the leak detection system to go off.

So, this was an entirely different problem. Apparently the latch was broken. On a “new” dishwasher.

I did some googling, trying to see if this was a common problem with these door latches, but came up empty. I couldn’t even find instructions for replacing the latch, which seems odd even now.

I got back in touch with the landlord and shared the new information. She cancelled the plumber and called an appliance service place. They came out a day or two later and were here for less than 10 minutes. I watched carefully — since this clearly could happen again — and all the guy did was take off some screws on the inside upper portion of the door panel so he could get into the door latch mechanisms, pop the latch off, flip a bit of plastic that is the latch itself back into place, and put it all back together.

Now when you close the door there is an audible click that indicates the door is latched. It holds it closed, even. And that stops the leak.

It’s a very bad design in my opinion, but it probably reduces the number of parts in the unit, making them less expensive to manufacture.

Had I been willing to muck with the door I would have been able to fix it myself, but the mechanism was not obvious, and I made the faulty assumption that something was broken because the door wasn’t latching, not that something was just out of place. Live and learn.

I’ve added this to the list of things the previous tenants did that we don’t understand. So far that list includes:

  • Dishwasher latch discombobulated and not reported. I guess they washed the dishes by hand after that?
  • Roof leak never reported.
  • The garbage can full of green waste “recycling” that was never dealt with. And it and stunk. A lot!
  • Something on the order of 30 balls left in the back yard that the dogs love to find. A mix of tennis balls, baseballs, street hockey balls, golf balls, and who knows what else. The discoveries continue. It seems that every time a ball would disappear into the overgrown bushes around the fences they would just get a new one.

I don’t get it.

And that’s the dishwasher story. Nothing all that exciting, but it really does make me wonder about the previous tenants. Why not report it to the landlord?

Another thing that came up last week was my laser cutting out a bunch of Batman logos, just to use the laser cutter. In response, my friend Sue Toorans — a jeweler and a stone carver — sent me a couple of links:

If those are interesting, the corresponding links to her website are here and here. Sue’s good people, and we taught stone carving together for 18 or 19 years before I moved. She’s still teaching it, in fact.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling. Here’s some news about school instead.


English class continues to be a weird combination of interesting and awful. The instructor is nice, interesting, patient and kind. The textbook — and the writing style it espouses — are soul crushingly terrible.

This past week we had to write a “passage analysis” paragraph.

I know: Just one paragraph, Jeff? How did you limit yourself to just one? It was a struggle. I’ll tell you about it.

The instructor selected passages from several of the stories we’ve read and asked us to write something about one of them. Specifically we were to discuss the meaning of the passage in relation to the larger work, as well as analyzing imagery, concepts, and various kinds of figurative language. In 200–250 words.

I picked the passage from my favourite story so far — mentioned last week: One Good Story, That One, by Thomas King — and wrote a bunch of notes about it. Probably 400 words of notes in bullet point format. (Can you see the problem yet? I couldn’t.) Then I spent a couple of days banging my head against the wall, trying to figure out how to write the analysis. Eventually I went to his office hours, where I was once again the only student present. We had a great, laughing, interesting, and even challenging conversation that went one and a half hours. (I kept him much later than he had intended to be there, but neither of us was watching the clock.)

Two things came out of that conversation that I want to share here:

The first is the most obvious: I was over analyzing the assignment. Clearly I’d done the research needed, but I was overwhelmed by what I had. (And, in fact, I told him I suspected he’d tell me that when I arrived in his office. He basically did tell me that, so one point for me, I guess.) The associated advice was to throttle back and focus on just a couple of the points I’d picked out.

More amusingly, though, was how our discussion went at one point. We were talking about the story and he said it was an “allusion” to the biblical story of Genesis. I argued it wasn’t an allusion, since that is an indirect and subtle reference to something, but this was a bald faced retelling of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, with twists. He agreed it was all that, but thought “allusion” was still a valid way of describing it.

I went home and looked up the dictionary definition of “allusion” and sent that back to him to support my claim.

Only then did I realize what I was doing: I was arguing about the definition and usage of a word with a PhD English professor.

Perhaps I need to rethink my approach to certain aspects of my life?

He has since replied and the conversation is still both interesting and amusing, so no harm done. But… what on earth am I doing?

Anyway, I wrote the passage analysis and turned it in. Then I read the next two assigned stories:

  • True Trash, by Margaret Atwood. A coming of age story about a boy’s camp. Not bad. I think it fairly workmanlike for Atwood, but it was fine.
  • Transfigurations, by Kulyk Keefer. A brief story about a 17 year old girl working in a beauty salon. Nice prose, but a less interesting story.

and I took a quiz about those. Now I have to get a paper written by this coming Friday. I’ll try not to fall prey to over analysis again.


This week saw people from the city visit to class for early presentations about our projects. Everyone did well, it seems, and there is only funding to build one of them, so there are no promises about anything here.

Our project is the clean up and cooling of an access ramp to a park. Here’s a photo of the ramp in question, which is at the corner of Alexander Street and Main Street in East Vancouver:

Site view, looking East(ish)

And here’s a view from Google Maps:

Satellite view

As you can see, this is an engineering solution to a problem. Providing access to those with mobility issues is a great thing, but this thing was created by engineers, not designers. It’s revolting.

Even worse, we have looked around in the city’s GIS database and found satellite pictures of it from 2006. At that time, there were plants and trees in the triangular sections of that ramp that are now filled with ugly concrete and rocks. We have no clue why they were removed.

Anyway, that ramp provides access to Crab Park, which is on the other side of the train tracks just north of that site. It’s hot in the sun, and ugly all the time.

We’ve built a series of suggestions about how to improve it. They amount to putting the plants back in, planting some trees in the boulevard, and putting up some shade structures of one sort or another to make the climb more bearable for those making it. Some seating and new paint wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Sadly, we were told this past week that just removing the concrete in the planters would cost a lot more than the entirety of our available budget, so we’re now breaking the project up into phases in the hopes that a simpler first phase might attract additional funds to really clean it up and make it nice.

There are other things going on in the area, too. The city has plans to make Alexander Street a one way road, apply other traffic calming measures to it, and create a bike path there as well. And the port authority has plans to expand the port, and in doing so they will cut off a chunk of the view from Crab Park. Our proposals might go well with the city’s plans, and maybe the port authority will want to give something back to the city’s residents in return for the loss of the view at the park. So we have hope, but no way of knowing what will actually be selected and built.

At this point we’re refining the project based on the feedback we were given, and we’re building the displays for the final presentation in less than two weeks. Busy busy busy.


  • Nothing other than the usual index of art school posts and other things here on Medium.


Two to share this week:

Makes sense to me! Taken at Lonsdale Quay Market.

And also, Tinkerbelle:

Waiting for mom to come home, or some kids on the street to bark at!

This dog… argh. Three times this past week she’s gotten me up in the middle of the night. 3 AM wake up calls are not exactly thrilling, but you see… this dog is an idiot.

Many times she forgets to eat. No, really. You put her full dinner bowl down right in front of her and she walks away. Apparently not hungry — at least for kibble — at the time. But then she fails to come back and eat when she is hungry, and the result is a huge rumbling stomach at 3 AM. The fix for that — according to her — is eating grass, so she demands to go out. The fix, according to me, is to eat on time, but we can’t force that, so she gets a tastey snack of some kind in the middle of the night to shut her stomach up and let her sleep. This, of course, might cause her not to want to eat again, or to only want to eat snacks, and the problem can be self perpetuating.

Alternately, if she has eaten, she fails to do all of her business before bed, so at 3 AM it’s suddenly very urgent.

There seems to be no winning with her. We love her, but she really is dumb.

And In Conclusion…

Once again, You’ve all done very well!

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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