The Sheer Joy Of Repair

I am always dismayed when I see something I own that is breaking down. Whether it is clothing, the car, tools and furniture, or the house itself, there is sense of loss to it all.

And yet – then there is a sometimes a spark of happiness to be found:

a. If the thing that is breaking or broken was something that was never used and was just being kept for the sake of appearances, the loss is a great chance to be free.

b. If life continues as comfortably and calmly as before it tells you that whatever it was was superfluous.

c. If you can get the thing repaired economically, you show frugal common sense.

d. If you can repair it yourself, you are Daniel Boone standing on a mountain top – king of all you survey.

Today it was the covering of my iPad – a magnetic case that protects the thing and shuts it off automatically upon closing. My pad keeps a charge far longer this way. It had split the pressed-leather covering away from the framework. Time to go get a new one from Apple…for $ 79.00…

Or time to get out the Weldbond PVA glue, two bits of foamcore board and some clothes pegs as clamps. Glue, clamp, set in the sun to dry. And an hour later pocket a virtual $ 79.00 toward my holiday trip.

On other days it has been shoes, tables, tents and awnings, worn shop tools, and a myriad of broken, fixable items that have been put back into service. Every day after a repair is a day in which the goods pay you – not the other way around.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it is, do.

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Mickey Mouse Has A Sweet Tooth

A few days ago I caught Mickey Mouse in a rubbish bin in my computer room. Or rather, I think he caught himself – he fell into the bin and couldn’t get out. I took him to the front yard, pointed him toward the neighbour’s house and tapped on the bottom of the bin. Away he flew.

Today we noticed a little scrap paper in the dining room near the sideboard. And then we opened the door…

That was a spare chocolate Advent calendar we had stored in the sideboard. Every date container save one was nibbled open and the chocolate mysteriously made to vanish. I suspect a miracle…

To his credit, he did not poo in the sideboard.

The cat was unavailable for comment.

You Want To Save The World? Part One

You want to save the world, or the planet, or the country, or humanity? Good  for you. Here’s a not-altogether-cynical guide to how to go about it. Today, how to save your neighbourhood.

a. Look left. Look right. Look back. Look in front.

Look at the buildings that form your neighbourhood. The ones that are already there before you decide to build your own structure.

Are they clean, sanitary, and wholesome? Are they proportioned to the space that is available? Are they safe? Are they attractive? Do they work, as housing or workspace? Do they help the people who occupy them…indeed do enough people occupy them? Are there trees and bushes, drains, gutters, electricity and gas? Are there public open spaces? Is there privacy without exclusion?

If so…emulate these designs when you add yourself to the milieu. Blend in, fit in, harmonise, and live happily with the neighbours. Do not press a Finnish reindeer shed into an English council estate.

b. Look at yourself. If you are a complete stranger to a neighbourhood, consider whether this is likely to continue forever..or can you introduce yourself gradually to those around you and come to terms with them and their lives. Or would you like to be a hermit, sore thumb, or pariah all the time and by doing so compel those about you to stand clear of you.

You can be a stranger in a strange land if you wish, but you cannot be one who demands that the land change for you at your whim. Even if your religious adviser tells you that you are entitled to it. You may find yourself getting with the pogrom…

c. You need not dress to impress the neighbours. You also need not dress to intimidate or offend the neighbours. If you dress in such a way that they are visibly amused, you’d better decide to change or enjoy the laughter.

Note that they need not dress to please you, or your religious advisers. If they comply with the civil law of the land, that is all that is needed.

d. If you have a structure that is new…ie. under 200 years old…do not pull it down to erect a set of jerry-built flats to resell the land at a higher price. You will waste all the energy, materials, effort, thought, and design that went into the original structure. You will further stack more into the waste-fill dumps and cost an entirely new cycle of rebuilding. If this is just chasing money, you completely negate any other environmental savings that you will ever make in your lifetime. You might as well smoke asbestos cigars and grind the butts into the faces of your grand children.

Think of that perfectly good house on a perfectly good suburban lot as a healthy tooth in your mouth. You would be a fool to have it pulled out and substituted with some artificial thing, no matter how sophisticated the operation.

 

Make It Or Buy It?

I once started an old-fashioned hobby that needed all sorts of arcane things that I had never seen in shops. When I asked the president of the hobby club where to get the things needed he said: ” My Dear Fellow – we make them ourselves. “. And then proceeded to show me how. Over the years I discovered no end of enthusiasts making things in workshops, forges, sewing rooms, and kitchens that had not been seen for centuries.

I joined in with some darkroom and studio work that revived old practices. In nearly every case there were difficulties finding out what to do and where to get supplied of raw materials but in the end most of the projects attempted were achieved. And I found out that in the process of casting, sewing, forging, planing, and general blood-letting we had gained something even more valuable than the musket balls, swords, tunics, and historic photos – we had gained the ability to be a little independent in a coddled world.

Not all of us can make castings in a furnace that we have constructed from river clay – but I know two chaps who can. Likewise I know people who can hand-stitch an entire suit of clothes. I can make leather goods and spray paint. None of us is ever really daunted by a household repair – we might not get round to it for a decade, but that is just laziness – not fear.

We all have reversed the admiration we might have once felt for store-bought goods in favour of those we design and make for ourselves.

If you are a person who is the victim of the shops – if all you wear, eat, use, and do is governed by the goods on offer and the price that the retailer can extract – pause for a moment and think. Is there any little need that you have that can be satisfied by making it yourself? It doesn’t have to be an organically grown steam engine or an entire garden in a week. But start small and make…and use to the exclusion of a commercial product…one thing. Get used to it – get to like it – and get the feeling that there are more things that you can do…

There are.

The Old Coot Network

The Old Coot Network is different from the Old Boy Network in several ways – and is probably similar to the relationship between the Old Dear Network and the Old Girl Network. I’m not sure if the differences are based upon nationality  but I’ll bet they have something to do with class.

Old Boys and Old Girls are traditionally former classmates at a private school. The Old Coots and Old Dears are from further down the market. But it does not stop them from being equally useful.

Take this week – I was concerned about the health and safety of this computer and called at the local Apple store to discuss it. I was handed from the greeter to a very attractive young woman with startling eyelashes and given time to ask my questions…but was immediately assured that they were groundless fears and that I really should toddle off. To help me toddle I was given the telephone number of the Apple Care help desk.

My net investigations then suggested that the Apple Care desk probably wouldn’t – at least not until I paid them some undetermined fee.

So it was on to the Old Coot Network – the people in my former trade that actually deal in and with Apple products for photographers’ use. They were more than happy to discuss my worries and to provide guidance toward a couple of anti-virus and anti-malware programs – the same ones they use for their photographic business. I came home, did as I was bid, and finally got the reassurance that all was well.

I am now curious to see whether it was beyond the policy of the Apple store to make the same recommendation or to tell me of their own, similar, product. I shall call at another store in their chain before I make any further judgement.

 

Security Breaches, Or How To Panic The Game Into Breaking Cover

There are many different techniques for a hunter when they are trying to get the game to show itself – some adopt the sneak-and-creep approach that tries to blend in and give the prey a false sense of security. Others use the big-noise ploy to frighten the animals into leaping from cover. Some just throw out chum – chopped-up whitebait, packets of hot chips, or free tickets to Johnny Farnham concerts.  All three are valid propositions.

One of the best new approaches is for a hacker to tell everyone that they are in terrible danger from hackers, and to direct them to a site that will protect them by harvesting private numbers and passwords. If this sounds a little like the federal government, you have to remember that both the hackers and the politicians learned their trade in the same private schools and may well end up sharing their experiences in the same cell.

The business of computer and internet security is so complex, of course, that it defies normal understanding. Like the mysteries of religion, this creates an opportunity for a priestly caste to step in and control the confused. The fact that the saviours are also the people who invented the danger is sometimes overlooked, in both circumstances.

To some extent this priestcraft is a good thing – if you are prepared to go blindly along with the directions of the experts you will eventually get somewhere – just be careful who you follow. The same principles apply to computer expertise and turf consultancy, and in some cases it seems to be done by the same people. If you are a fan of three-card monte games played in a doorway off a side street you should be perfectly at home.

Where the idea of priestcraft can be seen to be turning to more general benefit is in the fact that there are still several major electronic religions. You need not worship at the same keyboard altar as the person in the next cubicle. The teams can be played one against the other for the benefit of the perplexed. If one discovers a vulnerability of another, they will trumpet it in the mainstream long enough for the guilty party to either slink away or invent a repair for the problem.

You cannot stand firm upon ancient belief when it comes to computers – some prophet is always coming down off a mountain with a shining face and two more tablets of silicon – in many cases the glory turns out to be residual radiation and the wild hair is the result of opening the back of the desk-top a little too early. In any case, you are going to have to adapt, adopt, and update every so often – just do so at the behest of reputable firms and not Flash Harry. As irksome as they can be at times, the major suppliers like Apple and Microsoft really do maintain their own demesnes eventually.

The Little World – ” The Name Is Bond…”

” Plasti-Bond “.

The tube, tin, or bucket of good old Plasti-Bond ( Filled resin putty that sets with a chemical catalyst – similar to the material that is used to bond glass fibre cloth together.) has had a mixed reputation here in Australia. No matter who makes it, and for what it is used, it always seems to be judged as a second-rate material.

I guess this might have started with the motor trade as panel beaters ( Auto body shops in North America…) discovered that it would fill in small irregularities in metal panels that would have taken hours of dolly work and hammering to straighten. Fair enough for very small irregularities, but some tradesmen used enormous quantities of it and structural failures were inevitable. “Plazzing-up” a body was thought the height of amateurism or dodgy work.

Yet, the material is absolutely perfect for repairing fibre-glass caravan bodies and dealing with holes and cracks in home building materials. If used right, with anchoring and adequate filling and curing, it can do things that nothing else will.

I have just repaired the crisper tray in the refrigerator with it, and the ice tray in the freezer. Broken bits were glued together with humble Humbrol model kit cement – and it is a very tough cement – and then reinforced with metal plates, bars, and Plasti-Bond. The temperature in the shed today is perfect – not too high as to make mixing the resin dodgy, but warm enough to set it perfectly in half an hour.

As I had an unused tin of Plasti-Bond and plenty of metal and screws, I can fairly say to myself that the problems were solved for free.

Note: For Little World use, I run a fine line of Plasti-Bond into gaps that will not fill with Tamiya putty. It has more body and will stand the strain better.