Short Laundry List of Features on GE Washer Model GFW850SPNDG

I’m not a laundry guy, but we just got a new GE washer and dryer pair to replace the old set. I’m just going to make a few comments about the washer, model GFW850SPNDG. This is not an exhaustive review and I don’t have any conflict of interests with GE.

First let me get something off my chest about the much-vaunted ULTRAFRESH VENT System with ODORBLOCK, trademarked by Microban International, Ltd. Most of the YouTube videos I’ve seen about this feature promise you can say goodbye to leaving the washer door open to avoid the basket getting stinky from things like mold and old tootsie rolls. That might be true if you’re willing to leave the system running for up to 8 hours as it intermittently spins. Look, you can give the gasket and other areas of the washer a quick wipe-down and just leave the door open, OK?

Let’s turn to the SmartDispenser. This has to be filled in order to get the prewash option on any wash cycle. If you don’t fill the SmartDispenser compartment, I strongly suspect you won’t get prewash. My wife stood in front of the machine and watched it like a hawk after trying to add a little detergent to the SmartDispenser in addition to the detergent compartment in the front part of the dispenser drawer. The machine skipped the prewash. It’s important to be aware of this because you need to fill the SmartDispenser with up to 50 ounces of detergent, which is about half a bottle of liquid Tide. In our old GE washer, there was a dedicated, labeled prewash compartment. You can’t just put a little extra detergent in the front compartment and hope to get prewash. It won’t happen because it has to come from the SmartDispenser. Hey, I don’t make these rules.

The nice thing about the SmartDispenser is that once it’s filled, you can forget about adding detergent at all for every load. You still need to fill the fabric softener and bleach compartments as needed. When the detergent is about to run out in the SmartDispenser you’ll see a red-colored light message on the Smart Dispense digital display on the control panel saying “Tank Low” and another message below that which is labeled “Loads Left” in the SmartDispenser tank. The “Tank Low” message comes on when there are about 8-10 loads of detergent remaining (according to instructions).

The SmartDispenser adjusts the amount of soap to squirt out according to the size and composition of the load. According to instructions, a normal load weighs 8 pounds and when the SMART DISPENSE pad is set to “Auto,” it will magically determine how much to add or subtract from the standard 1.5-ounce dollop of soap. Otherwise, you can press “More” or “Less” to add or subtract 40%. If your load of clothes weighs more than 8 pounds, you should calmly put it on a diet and hire a personal trainer for it. Never fat shame your laundry.

While we’re at it, let’s look at the dispenser drawer in a little more detail. The front compartment is for liquid or powder detergent. You put either kind on the right-hand side of the goofy-looking blue flap. What matters is whether that blue flap is up or down. Flip the flap down—use liquid. Flip the flap up, use powder. The way to remember this is that when the flap covers the left-hand side, that means the flap is up. If you repeatedly flip the flap back and forth, you can put yourself into a deeply meditative state and cause world peace—which nobody seems to want.

The next two compartments to the rear of the detergent compartment are the bleach and fabric softener compartments. It’s normal for them to be swamped with water between wash cycles, according to the instructions. I don’t think you’re obligated to take the whole drawer out and turn it upside down to empty them, especially if you don’t have a sink in the laundry room. I suspect the compartments get flushed during washes. Or maybe a tiny alien flies in and sucks the liquid up to use as spaceship fuel.

The next compartment back is the SmartDispenser. It proudly advertises the Tide label. In order to get the lid open to load soap, you have to press the small blue tab in back of it so you can pull the drawer out a bit further. You can also remove the whole drawer by continuing to pull on it. Just be careful to press the tab in again as you push the drawer slowly back in place. If you slam it shut, you’ll upset the balance of the cosmos and a supernova will destroy the galaxy.

Remember, there are several GE washer models out there. Some features will not be available and some instructions will not apply—and they might mystify you. The section in our instruction book which tells you that, in order to manually select the amount of soap for a load, you should press the SMART DISPENSE pad on the control panel to select detergent for a Small or Large load. Don’t believe it; this is probably left over from a now defunct model.

OK, that’s all I got for now. I heard it through the grapevine that the next model will be a wringer washer.

Call Carlos for Computer Help

I’ve been getting messages from Microsoft needling me to update my computer to Windows 11. I’m familiar with the tone and wording which is supposed to nudge me to do something which I might regret. I’m also familiar with the awful blue screen of death. Even though Microsoft assures me my computer is Windows 11 ready—I’m not.

And I’ve seen the article about the old computer wizard named Carlos who was able to update his 15-year-old Intel Pentium computer to Windows 11. That should have been impossible. It doesn’t make me more comfortable about updating my modern machine.

I’m also sort of in the market for a new computer. I was all set to order a Dell XPS 8940. Sena is a genius shopper and asked if I’d checked to see if there was a newer model on the launching pad. She reminded me that I had made a similar purchase several years ago and regretted just missing the new model that came out only days after I bought the machine which I thought was the newest model. I’m thinking of an old commercial from many moons ago, showing a happy guy driving down the road in his convertible, his arm draped lovingly around a big box containing what he obviously thought was the latest and greatest computer—which he had just bought. He looks up and sees a billboard showing a picture of a model that is obviously the next generation up from his.

So, I got on line and searched and could find nothing newer than the Dell XPS 8940. I searched the Dell web site and could not find anything on the XPS 8950. She got on line and triumphantly called out she had found a newer model in the wings, the Dell XPS 8950. I rephrased my search term to ask a question, “Is there a Dell XPS model newer than the 8940?”

Bang, there were several hits for the XPS 8950. They were mostly press releases from late October 2021, although one of them was a question from a guy who tapped the Dell Community users web page. He asked “Should I have waited for the 8950?!—I just bought a 8940—Need Advice.” It was dated October 28, 2021. One user suggested looking a web page which pointed to an XPS 8950 press release with 138 comments. Many of them were obviously from experienced computer experts who spoke tech lingo beyond my understanding, but mentioned things like the 3 fans and a liquid cooling system in the much larger tower, and the opportunity to easily overclock the CPU.

I remember reading about overclocking many years ago. It involved soldering, if you can believe that. I think I flunked soldering back in shop class. I guess overclocking is easier now—for guys like Carlos. Incidentally, why does overclocking sound like a perk? Why can’t Dell just make the CPU powerful enough to obviate the need for overclocking? I probably just don’t get the power gamer culture out there.

Anyway, the XPS 8950 is supposed to be out by next month. Needless to say, there are no Black Friday deals for it, especially if it’s not even advertised on the Dell website. Maybe Dell is just trying to sell down the XPS 8940 inventory.

There are more than 7,000 customer reviews out there about the XPS 8940, most of them positive. You can get it loaded with Windows 11, which has not been out there for very long. My impression of the negative reviews is that the machines take a long time to boot up. Could Windows 11 be influencing that?

Maybe Dell should hire Carlos.

Follow the Trail of the Woolly Bear Tale

Sena and I went for a walk on the Clear Creek Trail today. It’s been about a year and a half since we last saw the place. A few things have changed, but one thing has not. You can nearly always find a woolly bear caterpillar somewhere along the trail, especially in the fall. I know I mentioned the insect not that long ago in a post after we thought we might have seen one on the Terry Trueblood Trail.

But we’re talking banded woolly bear, the genuine article. They have a brown band in the middle bounded by black bands at the head and tail ends. They’re fat and always busy looking for cover. There is a folk tale about it foretelling how hard the winter is going to get. The longer the black bands, the worse the winter will be.

However, the folk tale has long been debunked, according to my alma mater, Iowa State University (ISU). The bands are just indicators of the age of the insect, which is the larval stage of the Isabella moth.

But don’t try to tell that to the people of Vermilion, Ohio where they have the annual Woolly bear Festival. Dang, we just missed it in early October. They have a parade, woolly bear races, and an “official” examination of the woolly bears to nail down the winter forecast. I guess that’s sort of like hauling out the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania each Groundhog Day on February 2 to predict how much longer winter will last.

That reminds me (too late!) that we also missed this year’s ISU Department of Entomology Insect Zoo Film Festival, in Ames, Iowa, which was in late October. It’s an outreach program which travels all over Iowa to educate the public about insects.

I gather this evolved from another annual ISU Department of Entomology project called the Insect Horror Film Festival. It began in the early 1990s and gradually settled down into the Insect Zoo Film Festival in the mid-2000s.

That reminds me of one of my favorite movies, the 1997 film Men in Black, in which a bad-tempered giant cockroach alien crash lands its space ship on earth, eats a guy to use his skin as a disguise, tries to steal the Arquillian (tiny alien) galaxy, the best source of sub-atomic energy in the universe, and gets enraged every time it sees humans so much as swat a fly.

The other movie this makes me think of is the 1988 film Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice was sort of the star of the show, played by Michael Keaton. Beetlejuice was a dead guy who ate bugs and hired himself out to the newly dead, claiming to help ghosts get rid of a different species of pest—the living.

Finally, that makes me think of how long it’s going to take to get our Zombie Cribbage game delivered, given the recent slowdown of the Post Office. The snow may fly before it arrives.

But if the woolly bear analysis is right, at least there won’t be a lot of snow to slow down the mail truck.

Great YouTube Q&A on Covid-19 Vaccine for Children Ages 5-11: It’s better than a stick in the nose!

There was a great live stream YouTube Q&A presentation today on the Covid-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-11 through the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital this afternoon at 2:15 and it ran for about 30 minutes (scrub the play button forward to about a minute to start the recorded video). There were excellent questions and informative answers as well as helpful guidance for parents by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Theresa Brennan, MD and Pediatrician Dr. Rami Boutros, MD.

Parents have been eager to bring their kids in to the pediatric clinic to get the vaccine. Dr. Boutros shared a funny anecdote about his interaction with a child who had just got his shot yesterday. It’s about 34 minutes into the video. After the child received the shot, Dr. Boutros asked him, “How was it?” The child replied, “The vaccine is better than a stick in the nose!” Anybody who’s been tested for Covid-19 can relate to that.

How’s that for a meme? Get the vaccine; it’s better than a stick in the nose!

CDC Recommends COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Ages 5-11

Following the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) vote yesterday recommending the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11, CDC formally announced agreement with the committee’s decision after the meeting.

What You See is Not Always What You Get

A couple of days ago I thought of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoon, the one with the toggle switch in a passenger airplane cabin seat with the message “Wings Stay On; Wings Fall Off.” I googled it just for fun and found that it spawned a lot of web articles obviously trying to reassure the flying public that airplane wings don’t just fall off.

What brought the “Wings Stay On; Wings Fall Off” cartoon to mind were a few events in the last two days. Day before yesterday, Sena took our lease car to one of the local dealership’s car wash. She does this all the time without incident but this time she noticed that the “soap” didn’t rinse off. She drove it home and still couldn’t get what appeared to be soap film off the car. She finally drove back to the dealership and discovered that the car wash attendant had accidentally pressed the hydraulic oil lubricant button instead of the detergent button. A number of other car wash customers also had been victims of the mishap and were complaining to dealership management.

So, what had looked like soap film actually turned out to be hydraulic lubricant meant for the car wash motors. It turns out that accidents like these can happen. Could the button for the lubricant have been situated so close to the detergent button that the attendant accidentally pressed the wrong one? By itself, that reminded me of the Larson cartoon. If the systems analysist for the car wash design was asleep at the desk on the day of manufacture, I guess all you can do is think before you act. And what you see is not always what you get.

The next day, Sena and I were at the dealership sitting in an agent’s office. We noticed a tipped over cup of coffee. I reached over to pick it up, mentioning that he must have had a little accident. Much to my surprise, both cup and mess came up as a spill prank, which I had never seen before, believe it or not. The joke capitalizes on our human tendency to sometimes act before we think.

Finally, a couple of on-line news items caught my eye this morning. They were both about white tail deer in Iowa, discovered by Iowa State University (ISU) researchers to have somehow picked up the Covid-19 virus. One story was much shorter than the other.

The longer story by the Des Moines Register had a lot more ISU research detail in it and didn’t stress certain facts that might reassure readers that there was low likelihood that humans might be vulnerable to catching the virus from deer.

The shorter story by the KCCI news network didn’t present as much of the ISU research details and basically said as long as you used gloves to dress the animal in the field and thoroughly cooked the meat, you were in no danger of infection. Both stories basically carried the same message that there was low likelihood of infection to humans. But there was a slight tendency to overemphasize the risk in one article and maybe a tendency to underemphasize it in the other. These might illustrate the “spin” phenomenon for which readers should just be on the alert.

By the way, the CDC web site carries a message saying the risk of catching Covid-19 from wild animals is generally low.

What you see is not always what you get, especially at first glance. And it pays to think before you act.

CDC Advisory Committee Meeting Today on COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Ages 5-11

Today the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) had the meeting today to discuss the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 years of age. Presentation slides are here. The Policy Question to be voted on for today is:

“Should vaccination with Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (2-doses, 10µg, IM) be recommended for children 5–11 years of age, under an Emergency Use Authorization?”

Dr. Kevin Chatham-Stevens’ presentation on implementation of the vaccination program for children in the age group was informative. Most children will likely be vaccinated in their regional doctors’ office. Dr. Woodworth presented very helpful, practical, and reassuring information about the practical aspects of vaccination, see slides from “Interim Clinical Considerations for COVID-19 Vaccine in Children Ages 5–11 Years.”

Dr. Oliver’s presentation “EtR Framework: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children aged 5–11 years” as part of the evidence to framework details.

Ҥ Children are at least as likely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 as adults

– Over 1.9 million reported cases; seroprevalence estimated ~38% among 5–11 years in Sept 2021

– Infections in children less likely to be reported as cases than infections in adults

§ Children 5-11 years of age are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19

– >8,300 COVID-19 related hospitalizations as of mid-October

– Cumulative hospitalization rate is similar to pre-pandemic influenza seasons

– Severity comparable among children hospitalized with influenza and COVID-19, with approximately 1/3 of children 5–11 years requiring ICU admission

– MIS-C most frequent among children 5–11 years

– Post-COVID conditions have been reported in children

§ Secondary transmission from young school-aged children occurs in household and school settings”

The negative impact on children is considerable, especially for those of color. Vaccine efficacy was 90.9% in the Pfizer randomized controlled trial. The bottom line was that the balance and risks is favorable for vaccinations of all children. Post authorization safety monitoring will continue. The Work Group proposed to recommend the intervention.

After discussion, the committee voted on the ACIP Interim Recommendation below:

“The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (2-doses, 10µg, IM) is recommended for children 5–11 years of age, in the U.S. population under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization.”

The vote on the interim recommendation passed unanimously (14 yes votes).

The meeting was adjourned at approximately 5:00 PM, ET.

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