Dec 19

On plastic (700 words)

We have wooden blinds in part of the house. We have plastic blinds elsewhere in the house and I have installed or replaced almost all of them, because no one, no thing and no circumstance appreciates the fine molecular structure that holds those things together. Do not stare at the blinds, because if you sneeze while you are considering them I’ll have paid for the juco classes for the blinds salesman’s grandkids.

The wooden ones are made of something more sturdy. The cheapest balsa wood, most probably. They are nice, attractive. They have about 14 strings descending from the top of the window, and cats love that. So we’ve tried to neatly coil and stow those away, like sailors. Because that’s what cats do to you, they make you put everything away. They make you improve your sleight-of-hand game, because they’re always around when you have to hide things.

A lot like kids, you might say. Yes, but children grow up.

On the front of the wood blinds, hiding the lightweight metal frame which hides the inner workings, is a nice molded plastic valance. It looks like an attractive routed, wooden molding. If I didn’t have these on the windows, you would never notice. If you noticed they weren’t there, you’d just think I was a bachelor. I’m not a bachelor. So the downstairs windows, where the 93 strings responsible for tacking to the window and driving the clipper ship across the water, have wooden blinds and valances.

A little piece of plastic which comes from some back-alley plastic manufacturer in some faraway land holds the valances in place. Two valances per blind. Except for the one on the left-most blinds in the living room, the ones nearest the TV, the ones directly across from my customary seat. See, that little piece of plastic had broken off. We assume it was either a cleaning accident or a micro-nuclear explosion at the nanoparticle level. Well. This evening I got tired of the ineffective temporary solution (tape) and resolved to create an effective temporary solution (anything else).

This requires removing the blinds — haven’t I paid enough into the karma bank for the year? — to implement my solution. I didn’t have to go with the fake fix, though, because I found the broken part of the old valance clip, inside the blinds casing.

Still with me?

I went to the super glue drawer. (You don’t have a super glue drawer? I have three different brands in my super glue drawer, each operating with varying levels of ineffectiveness.) I glued up the broken piece.

This is the plastic I’m working with. When the glue cures, the blinds must come out of their holding pieces once more. I removed the one valance clip from the frame of the blinds, allowing me to run the nice molded plastic valance that looks like an attractive routed, wooden molding, through both of the clips, and then re-attached it all. I fixed the glued one. I broke the other one. (Fourth thing I’ve broken in a week!)

I glued that one back together … and that didn’t work.

Super glue is a con, but you can trust the Internet. A quick search showed me the same pieces of cheap plastic on Amazon. I ordered it from my miracle device, sitting comfortably in the living room. They’ll arrive next week, as I have chosen the slowest possible delivery method and these delightful pieces of plastic will take the scenic route through Canada (or Oklahoma, the Internet isn’t clear on this point) before they take on their arduous job of holding plastic up all the live-long day.

You know how you’re never supposed to read the comments? Sometimes you shouldn’t read the reviews. The third one on Amazon says, and I quote directly and in its entirety, “is ok.”

Who needs flying cars? This is the world we live and work and play in! I ordered more of the thing that breaks easily without interacting with another soul! They gave me an option for free returns too. So, if they aren’t coming from Canada (or Oklahoma), but rather from space, they’ll have a nice trajectory into orbit. Maybe they’ll hold something together up there.

Dec 19

Content cheats from the weekend

A treat from the weekend:

We took the in-laws out to eat dinner on Sunday. This was our dessert on a cold and rainy night.

Something sweet from the weekend:

Turns out that when it gets chilly, the two cats, which have a mercurial relationship, get along nicely. For warmth.

The most successful tweets from the weekend:

More on Twitter, of course, and check me out on Instagram as well.

Nov 19

We’re averaging 300 words per topic here

How was your Thanksgiving? As great as mine, I hope. The in-laws are in town, and we are having a lovely visit. The Yankee and her mother made a delicious meal (and I got in the way of things a little bit) and we were able to enjoy it last night and tonight. There’s still some good stuff in the refrigerator, so if you’re out of Thanksgiving provisions feel free to stop by.

Thanksgiving seemed to sneak up this year. It wasn’t until near the end of last week that it seemed an eventuality. I’ll blame the timeless nuance of the work structure. You’re bound into the regiment of the week, each week, this week, next week the one after, all just like the last in their own way. And it’s hectic in its own way. And then, suddenly, people are thinking and talking about their travel plans. And then the travel and you begin to focus on the good stuff: the family, the visiting, the food.

And then, almost as quickly as it arrives, it is gone. Swallowed by like leftovers, like a running back in so many bad Thanksgiving football games, or even worse Friday night games. It’s almost as if you’re reminded, just in time, to spend this moment as a moment for which you should be thankful, and remember all of the many blessings you have. That we have to reminded is a human failing. That we now follow a day of such humility with a day of crass commercialism – what once was shopping in stores became camping out and then shopping over night and shopping online and, now, “Dear Lord, how did all of these companies get my good email address?” — is probably the second problem.

Now it is the season of lights and cold and shopping and traveling and feasts and generically labeled office parties and more sugar cookies than you need and exploitive commercials.

Seven more emails from stores I once shopped at in 2011 rolled in just as I wrote that paragraph.

I put handles on the stove cover this evening. We started using it earlier this week, without them, to see if it was necessary. We quickly decided it was necessary.

So, fortunately, I’d purchased two drawer pulls earlier this week that are vaguely reminiscent of what is featured in the kitchen cabinets. And then I picked up four screws that were too long. So I sawed them down to an appropriate size earlier in the week. And then tonight, after everyone had retired, I agonized over how to do this.

It involved tape, a fair amount of muttering and wondering at how many ways I could get the measuring wrong. A lot, it turns out. But when you add hardware last, you are obliged to get the actual process correct the first time. This isn’t the finest piece of craftsmanship in the world, mind you, but when you put a drill bit into finished wood you are definitely stepping over the point of no return.

And I had to have that conversation with myself twice.

Sure, if you were making dressers or cabinets or anything in mass, you’d work up a template or a jig to speed things along. This was four screws on an artisanal piece of folk art from extra lumber and a few free moments grabbed from here and there. I’m an amateur, is what I’m saying.

For us amateurs, it isn’t the first screw that’s the problem. You have to have the second one in precisely the right spot, so the handle can actually attach.

That made for a few tense moment. Drill on wood, drill in wood, drill through wood. And now the screw, pushed from one side through the last. And where is the handle? There it is. They always escape, like they know something. Do they know something? Is this going to fit? Should I just start trying to soften up the handle now so I can warp it if it doesn’t fit? It isn’t going to fi — elbow grease it into place. It fit. But only just barely.

That was the second side when, presumably, I was more prepared for the task. When I’d figured out my process. After the first time, when I had to do a little hand shimming of the second drill bit whole.

Anyway, they both fit. The stove cover is done and in place and if it works for at least three weeks then we’ll have gotten the effort out of it, I guess. Also, the next time I make something like this, I’m using knobs. Just the one screw, after all.

So, next week, then, it is back to my tie rack. Only nine more pieces to sand!

But today, you have the books!

Today we’re wrapping up our examination of the April 1969 Reader’s Digest from my grandfather’s mound of books. It is the last of the Digest, so we’ll have to start something else in the next few days. Perhaps the stash of Modern Science. Perhaps some other thing that catches my eye. We’ll get them all eventually, but you can get this right now.

Click the book cover to see the latest. If you are catching up, you can see the entire 50-year-old April issue here. If you’d like to see some other things from the my grandfather’s collection — there are textbooks and notebooks and more — just follow this link.

Nov 19

Happy Thanksgiving

… from a couple of turkeys.

Hope you have enjoyed a day of peace and joy and great food and good leftovers.

Nov 19

I made this

I’ve been talking about this too much and showing very brief, inconsistent photographs of my latest project, but here it is:

It’s nothing more than seven pieces of wood, from three larger pieces I bought late this summer. This wood was supposed to be the test pieces as I tried to answer the question: What should a stove cover look like?

The real question is: How do you keep cats off countertops? but philosophers, scientists and theologians have all failed to answer that one. So we’re left with the stove cover thing.

I did a plywood top version for a few weeks. It was really a study of heat. What was safely tall enough to not cause problems as the stove eyes cooled after use? We did some product testing and decided we would like to lower it a bit, to make it flush with the bar in the background. Happily, we decided we could safely do so. I considered different methods for the top portion, ultimately deciding to keep it simple and use wood I already had in the garage. Most of it was straight and true. One piece had a nice twist in it, and I had to use it. So I did. And that’s what makes it artisanal folk art made by a total amateur. Or whatever.

A few weekends ago I got all the cutting and sizing done. And then I trudged through the sanding. It turns out these things take time when you have competing interests. Last weekend we did stain tests and The Yankee applied the chosen blend. Now that has finally dried. Yesterday, and today, I have applied four coats of the top coat, which is a General Finishes product I’m almost ready to swear by. It is a little pricey, but it goes on easy. It cleans up easy. It dries fast and it doesn’t bubble. It seems durable and, the Internet tells me, it doesn’t yellow with time. I applied it to my desk last year and that still looks nice.

Here, I think, is the key: I got four coats of that stuff on last night and today, and finished the project. (Just in time for Thanksgiving, but hey.) Amazing what you can do when you have some free time on your hands.