From the Vault: a design flaw in the otherwise perfect basket

Last night, I stood in front of the open refrigerator and thought to myself, "You know what would go good with this vegetarian chili? That Oaked Arrogant Bastard!"

I reached for it, applying my -3 DEX modifier, like you do. A minute later sent the following text message to Anne:

"Hey, we're out of beer. Could you pick up some Oaked AB on the way home? Also, totally unrelated to this, where's the mop?"

While I waited for her reply, I was reminded of this post I wrote three years ago:

We have a new refrigerator. It's energy efficient, can hold an entire horse and a stick of butter, and is generally one of the more awesome "grown up" purchases Anne and I have made since we got married seven years ago.

In addition to the awesome Futurama magnets that adorn its doors, it comes with a nifty little basket thingy which slides in and out underneath one of the shelves, perfect for holding bottles and cans.

We here in Chez Wheaton don't drink much of anything that comes out of a can (the notable exception being Guinness) but I drink plenty of things that come out of a bottle, like Stone Pale Ale and Izze soda, for example.

A few months ago, I uncovered a design flaw in the otherwise perfect basket: the wires spread out a little (okay, a lot) more easily than you'd expect from something intended to hold bottles in their least entropic state. If you have a heavy bottle (like a wine bottle, for example) on the same rack as a lighter bottle (like a Newcastle, for instance) and you look at them funny, the heavy bottle will create enough pressure to spread the wires and launch the lighter bottle onto the floor, where it will explode.

This afternoon, while I was trying to pull out a bottle of Tejava (99 cents at Trader Joe's) to enjoy a cool glass of tea, a bottle of clementine Izzie soda looked up at me, shouted, "Hooray! I'm free!" It then launched itself onto the floor, where it landed in a sticky explosion of horrible, entropic freedom.

I was, of course, standing barefoot in the kitchen at the time, so I got to tip toe through a spreading slick of soda and shards of broken glass that were as pointy and deadly as they were invisible on the floor while I made my way to the paper towels.

By some miracle, I didn't cut the everlivingshit out of my feet, and only got stuck a couple of times, and by the time Anne and Nolan got home, I was nearly done cleaning it up.

"What happened?" Anne said.

"There were . . . errors," I said.

She gave me a blank look. Before I could explain the inside joke to her, Nolan said, "What did you do?"

"I was trying to get some iced tea, and the Izze decided to make a break for it."

I held up a handful of dripping paper towels.

"It succeeded."

Nolan dropped to his knees and looked skyward. "Noooooooo!" He said, while shaking his fists at an imaginary Statue of Liberty.

"Yeah," I said. "Sorry. But there's more, so you can put them in there when I'm done."

Anne walked over to the pantry to get some replacement bottles.

"Would you like me to leave some of this here, as a warning to the new bottles?" I asked.

I got The Look.

I finished cleaning up.

55 thoughts on “From the Vault: a design flaw in the otherwise perfect basket”

  1. HA! That’s as funny as it was the first time I read it. I can’t count how many Stone Pale Ales have leapt to their death from my fridge. Even without a flawed basket.

  2. Minus the (spot on) timing of your son, this sounds like the kind of interaction my fiance and I have a lot. Actually, many of your interactions with your family sound the same as mine. Hmm…wait…it…it couldn’t be true….
    Is your family stalking us and reenacting our best interactions??? Is your whole family just acting out what I’m doing here on the East Coast? HUH??? ANSWERNAOPLZ -_-;;

  3. Silly question: could you not cut down and place a piece of cardboard or other similarly-flat, easily-cut-downable material on the bottom of said basket, thereby preserving the desired entropic state?

  4. I have been waiting for SO long for you to rerun the Izzie soda story! Every time a from the vault piece comes up I wonder if it’ll be this one. Finally, the day has arrived. Love it.

  5. I found a similar design flaw in any vertically-facing freezer. Things belonging in the freezer typically don’t have an always-square and thoughtful shape. So when your freezer gets full… sometimes… you shove… make it fit.
    And then later, when you go to get a delicious sugar-free cherry-flavored popsicle, you also get a bonus 5-pound roast or 20 taquitos on your foot / feet.
    This…also.. could be just lack of organizational skill.

  6. You need to hold some sort of contest to see who can create the best ‘The Look’ emoticon.
    Seriously though, those last three sentences actually made me chuckle out loud (col?)

  7. Yep. I've tried everything imaginable short of welding the damn thing, but nothing seems to work.
    Luckily, this sort of thing only happens once every three years or so, even with my terrible DEX, so it's not as big a problem as it could be.

  8. Hey, this reads as a classic tale of man vs ‘the machine’ (it’s never a woman being this clumsy/unlucky, let’s face it – certainly not in our household). The last few sentences are genuine LOL funny, Wil and I suspect ‘The Look’ is well known (and feared) the world over! In my head, I always imagine this to be like when Eddings writes about Polgara arching an eyebrow when discovering the latest faux pas by one of the ‘men folk’.
    Love the slightly surreal ‘as a warning to the new bottles’ bit, btw.

  9. This post is a perfect example of the reason I follow you Wil. A real life mundane situation mixed with a few geek outbursts and a healthy dose of intelligent humor. Awesome.

  10. Speaking of the imaginary Statue of Liberty, I did in fact manage to work the faces of Mt. Rushmore into my song about Ms. Liberty’s midlife crisis, which is turning out awesome, thank you muchly. There will be a “with thanks to Wil Wheaton” credit on the album liner notes if it ever ends up being sold in a physical medium. (Some bands still make “liner notes”, right? Just checking…)

  11. I love that Nolan’s just as geeky as you. I need to get my son to read this one so he doesn’t feel like the only teenaged geek on Earth.

  12. Clearly, the basket was designed for lame “beers” lacking the heft of actual flavor. Maybe you can post a photo of this infamous basket to see if some handy geeks can offer a hack to fix it.
    Also, when you retrieve the next bottle of beer, you can apply the Drunken Master modifier, which is either +1 or -1 depending on a coin/bottlecap flip. Double the modifier if you take on the classic Drunken Master pose:

  13. You know, those Zip-ties used for elctrical wiring would be an excellent fix. Just zip them down to keep the basket wires in their place, it will keep stuff from slipping through and you’re good to go with beverages, intact.
    Classic archive story Wil….nice

  14. I have so been there! As I was walking out of my local Albertsons one night, (where they, for some reason, do NOT believe in the double bagging when one little sack just won’t cut it rule) my pasta sauce decided it wanted to be free right there in the middle of the parking lot during a flow of impatient drivers, and also decided at that very moment, that not only did it want out of the sack, it wanted out of its jar.
    Before I knew it, I, and everything else I was holding was covered in red sauce, not to mention the glass covered ground, oh yes.
    It has been a crazy day today, and your post really put an ever needed smile on my face, thank you Wil!
    PS…how long have you been a veggie?? I have been one since 2006, and counting!!!!! Could not eat meat again if I wanted too.

  15. Totally agree about those widgeted cans of Guinness being splendid. I never tire of watching that trademark Guinness cascade effect as the liquid falls, allowing those tight, nitrogen-primed bubbles to gather at the top…
    Wil, ever contemplated brewing your own? It’s really not hard and a highly rewarding experience.

  16. I would *love* to brew my own beer. It's been on my wishlist for years, but I just haven't had the time or the room I'd need to ferment and bottle.
    Someday, though. Someday I'll get that achievement.

  17. Ahhh… but you don’t have to bottle. Much easier to keg the beer. Some years back, when soda pop dispensing transitioned from those old, steel cylinders to bag-in-box syrup + carbonated water, all those kegs were homeless, and homebrewing suppliers snapped them up. There are billions of them out there, available for a few bucks, and when the beer is done it takes just half an hour or so to get it packaged into the keg. Bottling a 5-gal batch takes hours, by comparison.
    Fermenters take up quite little space… but, time is definitely needed on brew day– 6 hours or so. I totally empathize with the lack of time… I haven’t brewed once since moving back to Houston in June of last year. Hell, haven’t even gotten ingredients yet. Sigh.

  18. (1) Any chance you’d share the recipe for your vegetarian chili? It gets referenced a lot in your stories – must fuel the creative part of your brain – and every mention makes me hungry.
    (2) Got my ticket for Pax East. Will you be there?

  19. The real tragedy is the demise of the Oaked Arrogant Bastard. That by itself brought a tear to my eye, especially when I realized I don’t have any of my own in the fridge. Must rectify.
    Dave @ NASA is right about the brewing and the kegging, but kegging requires a bigger investment than a basic brewing kit.
    For me, it’s the time commitment that keeps me from brewing my own as often as I would like. Not only do you need to commit a few hours on the day you brew, but you then need to set aside time in the coming weeks to rack to a secondary fermenter (I highly recommend) and then hours a couple weeks later to bottle. Oh, there’s some play in there (you can leave in the secondary for up to a month) but I hate having my back up against the wall.
    There’s also getting the equipment you need. Fortunately, you can repurpose bottles from commercial beer. I can always find time to empty those.

  20. 2 things. 1 – Until a year ago I lived in Newcastle upon Tyne .. the home of the Brown Ale. If it is that Newcastle you speak of. 2 – The same thing has happened to me barefoot in the kitchen. But with a barefoot 2 year old too. THAT was interesting .. and both of us managed to get out unscathed. “Do NOT move!” I said as though we were standing in a mine field.
    It’s those teeny tiny slivers of glass that are the real danger!

  21. I totally agree shred! Just as funny this time, and I even think of this story from time to time with ‘near Wil experiences’ in our own fridge… *refrains from elaborating*
    : )
    ~~~Waves hi to all from Pittsburgh, PA

  22. Similar design flaws were included in my old refrigerator. It was actually in the freezer part of it.
    In the freezer door, there was a compartment that allowed you to top-feed cans of concentrated juice that allowed you to just pull one from the bottom of the rack. Well, when you filled it up to it’s maximum of 5 cans, the bottom one would sling-shot out at maximum velocity the first time you opened the freezer door. You’d hear a *Pop* sound followed by a *thud* as the cardboard wrapped frozen mush of sticky doom found it’s final release on the ceramic tile.
    Getting that stuff out of the grout was always so much fun <_<

  23. Just to round out the homebrew thought… If one starts (as most do) using malt-extract rather than all-grain, the gear to get a batch to the fermenters (I quite agree that a secondary is essential) is probably about $125 or so. If one gets a couple of kegs and a CO2 bottle to drive them, that’s another $50 to $100 depending on how many kegs and size of CO2 cylinder. One can typically get the ingredients for a malt-extract batch for $15 or so; thus the per-case cost (ignoring hardware costs) is under five bucks.
    The jump to all-grain involves probably another hundred-plus, but many brewers never do that and consistently produce excellent beer. Rest assured also that there is a vast brewing community out there on the web who are only too happy to help as you get started.

  24. That’s exactly what I was thinking! I am great at jerry-rigging things like that, but I’m not sure I’m understanding the design of the basket. Post a photo, Wil! We can help!

  25. Some night when you are bored, sit down with the Basket of Unintended Kitchen Irrigation and some twine or strong ribbon. Knot the twine/ribbon around the wires on the basket, and just weave some reinforcement in there. Knot enough twine/ribbon, and I promise it will be strong enough for bottles of wine.
    It’s the same general technique used to support old-time chair seats – just weave a net.
    Good luck. Please do something – the thought of beer exploding on a kitchen floor is painful.

  26. This is completely off topic but, I was bored and decided to read through your archives from the begginings in 2005 and I see you totally predicted cloud computing on october 26th 2005. Now, games like Torchlight totally save your games on the interwebs. You’re a visionnary!

  27. Two questions for ya, Wil….
    1) How come you drink Guinness out of the can instead of the newer bottles that have the nitrogen capsule in the top? Those taste more like tap Guinness to me.
    2) WTF is the “errors” quote from?? It’s driving me shatbit crazy that I can’t place it!!
    Keep up the extraordinary work!

  28. It just seems to happen that way Wil. Sometimes it’s with something that you wanted to drink or have and it wanted freedom…but it was the last one…or it is that item behind that you want and it just makes a mess. Either way….

  29. Hey Wil,
    I write a little column in Connecticut called Beer Snob, and it would be the bee’s knees to do an interview with you if you’re at all interested in blabbing on about West Coast beers, which I’m guessing is something you’d care to blab on about. Of course, I listen to your podcast and find you generally hilarious and would talk to you about your life in general. It would be the super randomness of the interview that would tickle me, and perhaps, my readers.
    Hit me up if you have the time. Thanks for the fine writing, acting, and “Retarded Policeman” cameo.
    Will Siss
    [email protected]

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