June 16, 2010

The turn of the screw

I'm writing today about one of the best things ever to come out of Canada--and that's saying something--and I'll do my best not to be puerile. But I'm talking about a great screw. If they're so great, why aren't they used universally, you may ask ... the story seems to be one of greed, poor marketing, and politics. As interesting as that sounds, it's not my story to tell, but if you're industrious, you'll probably be able to find it on the internet.

Incidentally, am I the only person who thinks "puerile" ought to be pronounced "poo AIR isle" and not "Pure Ill"?

So ... I was talking about screws and screwing. Every now and then I find myself taking something apart, and because I'm amazingly cheap when it comes to little things, I remove and save the screws and bolts I might be able to reuse ... because I hate having to run downtown for the odd screw (come on!), and in fact I keep my nuts in a coffee can.

Now can we just get on with it?

I'm to the point where I will generally throw away slotted screws when I find them, because they're just a pain to deal with. It's good to have some around if you want to match hardware on an older piece of furniture, but generally, they're of little use to me.

I feel the same way about Phillips head screws. They're better, and they're the home center standard, I guess, but the screws you find in the home centers are, in my experience, pretty crappy, especially if you're driving them with a power driver ... even if you drill appropriate pilot holes and use the clutch on your driver. And when you strip out the head of one of these, you're well, screwed.

Note that I'm talking about wood screws here, not deck screws or drywall screws ... I do not encourage the use of drywall screws except for hanging drywall due to their brittle nature. In particular, I don't love seeing heavy upper cabinets hung with them. Probably it's fine to do so. Probably.

But for the projects I'm working on, and for all my wood screw needs for the foreseeable future, I'm going with Robertson or square drive screws. Like this guy and this guy, Robertson screws are a Canadian product, and once you've used square drive wood screws, other screws will just annoy you. Why? First and last, they do not tend to strip out. They'll also stay on the end of your square-head screwdriver, so you can probably get a screw started with one hand ... very convenient.

I'll wait.

Not sure what else you need to know, except where to get them, since most stores don't carry them, except the pan head variety used for pocket hole joinery. Where to get them is McFeely's ... check out their catalog, which will tell you more about screws than you thought it was possible to know. It's like the Kama Sutra of screws. And they sell square drive deck and drywall screws, too.

It's ... well, it's this.

This is not a paid endorsement! I just want you to be happy.

June 14, 2010

The vision

I'm pleased to report that the long-awaited kitchen remodel is underway. I used a program called Cabinet Planner to ... well ... plan the cabinets. You should be looking at a rendering of the plan, though you may not be able to see too much detail. It's not a radical departure from the current kitchen in terms of layout, though currently the refrigerator is sitting where the tall pantry cabinet is shown at the right of the attached image. In the new kitchen, it will be sitting roughly across from the dishwasher, across from the wall you're looking through in the picture.

A few other essential differences: the current cabinets are painted (I assume) pine or plywood. The countertop is postform formica, and it's not even really screwed down to the cabinets. Nor is it scribed to the back wall, so there are gaps behind it that a mouse could climb through to hilarious effect.

The current kitchen is dark. The new kitchen will be light, as the cabinets will be natural maple, which is light, with black appliances (the current ones) and a counter surface to be identified later. I hope to pick out the handles and pulls this week. We're also replacing the floor with a light laminate (we thought hard about hardwood or something more permanent and costly, but we know we're not going to live out our days in this house).

A few other features: the bottom cabinets will have either drawers or pull-out shelves, and the corner cabinets will have lazy susans. The sink will be black enamel, undermounted, I hope, and therefore lipless. The toe kicks will be cherry, as will the currently hideous soffits above the cabinet, and possibly the edge of the countertop. We'll be papering the walls, since they're already papered over paneling ... it's the easiest option, and it ought to come out okay.

So, how's it coming, you ask? So far I've done one cabinet. One. But it came out okay, and the rest will be done assembly-line fashion. They'll be finished with water-based polyurethane sprayed over shellac (Zinsser Sealcoat, which dewaxed shellac).

Should have it done in a week or so. Ha HAAAAA!

June 07, 2010

People need to stop messing with my stuff

Reading over some of my old posts from the last couple of years, I can't say that I'm overjoyed at the way the entities who actually own the material in Youtube videos have forced said 'tube to remove said material in the interest of protecting their copyrights. Because I gotta tellya, it interferes pretty seriously with some of the humorous juxtapositions with which I like to punctuate my pontificatin'. The nerve of these people! The hubris!

Even more irritating is when I dutifully posted the ostensibly legal links to material from MTV or Comedy Central, only to find that they are now dead. I try to play fair, people, but fair is a moving target, and as I've asked about other moving targets in the past, how come the moving target never seems to move any closer?

Of course, as a wannabe content provider myself, I take a much dimmer view of copyright infringement than I may have in the past. This not to say I wouldn't still be overjoyed if somebody thought any of the songs I helped to write were good enough to steal, which as far as I know hasn't happened yet ... and let's face it, that window of opportunity has probably sailed.

But the textbook is a different story, especially since we actually are getting some modest royalties on it. If I could put the kibosh on the black- and gray-market commerce in the book, I surely would ... including those people who buy exam copies from professors, though I must admit I've been on the offending end of that transaction once or twice or several dozen times.

Last year we received an inquiry from somebody in China asking for permission to translate the book. I had yuan signs in my eyes ... think about how many college students there must be in China--what a market! Turns out he wasn't willing to pay for permission to translate it. Well, crap.

Though I gotta tellya, the idea of all those Chinese students learning about writing about literature from our book (and thus becoming at least associate (if not full) minions)) does have its appeal.

June 02, 2010

I'm baaaaaaaack!

Back in the saddle again? Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves ... I've missed doing this, probably more than anybody missed reading it. Look: if you know me at all, and you do, or you wouldn't be reading this, surely, unless you're one of the two or three people a day who get here by googling Karen Allen or something (why?), you know that I'm in general not a reliable correspondent ... but I'm going to try to write at least weekly. Hell, it got me through my dissertation, am I right? (Hi Murray).

I know that the themeless rant blog is passe (sorry about the missing accent), but I still don't really have a concept in mind aside from, as I've said before, the random conversation I'd have with students before class started, back when I was in the classroom ... or, let's face it, the monologue with which I'd waste the first few minutes of class. Not wasting ... building rapport. Establishing a positive learning environment. If you will.

Anyhow, I'm shooting for once a week at least, and I'm not going to talk about work. That's about it.

Oh, and I've been watching Justified, and it's not too bad.