’19 A To Z Challenge – Kludge

Calipers

Three Laws Of Practical Engineering
Force to fit
File to hide
Paint to cover

At the steel fabricating plant where I once worked, the difference between a welder, and a welder/fitter, was a ten-pound sledgehammer. Those storage tanks always fit.

Kludge

Noun – a software or hardware configuration that, while inelegant, inefficient, clumsy, or patched together, succeeds in solving a specific problem or performing a particular task.

Verb – the atypical act or action of achieving such a goal

Coined 1960/65 by American author Jackson W. Granholm.

Too often, ivory-tower engineers design things for the perfect, optimum conditions, and ignore reality. If you design something to be foolproof, someone will design a bigger fool. As James Bond said to Q, in one of the movies, “There’s a lot of wear and tear goes on out in the field.”

The concept of ‘Kludge’ indicates an open and adaptive mind, instead of one bounded by unchanging rules and regulations. Larry the Cable Guy may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but you have to admire his Git ’er done philosophy.

I got this challenge done, and I’ve got a couple more, ready to post soon. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

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Cross Words

Crossword

CROSSWORD PUZZLES LEAVE SOME PEOPLE BLANK

Some people just don’t understand what people like me get out of doing crossword puzzles. We sit for hours, poring over ambiguous clues, to fill in little boxes, and when we’re done, all we have is a page full of letters.  I mean, we don’t even get a prize for all that work.

As you’ve probably guessed, lots of folks, my darling wife included, do not find crossword puzzles _ _ _ (three letters across, first letter F)  Even though I’ve almost made a C_R_ _R (life’s work, six letters) out of writing and playing with words, trying to do a crossword puzzle is an agonizing chore for many.  Their minds just don’t work that way.

My wife will sit for hours without saying a word, while I do my puzzles.  If I happen to muse aloud, “What’s a four-letter word for a garden tool?” she will quickly reply, “Spatula.”  I say, “No!  I think it’s rake.” and write that down.

If I had simply asked her to name some garden tools, she could have rattled off a whole list, from rake and shovel, to trowel, spade, and ‘Garden Weazel.’  Because I specifically mentioned a four-letter garden tool for a crossword puzzle, she can’t think of a single one.  Her mind just goes BL-N- (empty, five letters)

In fact, the moment I posed that question, she couldn’t think of a garden tool to save her life, even if she were being tortured by the Spanish Inquisition.  The Inquisitor could say, “All right, heretic.  Give me a three-letter word for ‘poem’, starting with O, or I will lock you in the Iron Maiden.”  She’d probably just stand there and say, “I think it’s ‘Owl’, before they ran the sharp spikes into her body.

CROSSWORD PUZZLING

The reason that some folks can’t think of answers to crossword puzzle questions is that, whenever they’re presented with a clue, their mind becomes a big, dark room where they rummage around, trying to find something, anything, to fill in the blank spaces.  They grab onto it, and shout ‘Spatula’ for no apparent reason.

The best they can do with crosswords, is come close.  If the clue is – a beverage: P_ _, they write down PUB, which is actually fairly good, since at least a pub is a place where you can get a beverage.  If the puzzle wants ‘Lennon’s widow’ in three letters, they put down ‘Mrs.’

Crossword clues are just plain confusing to some.  They read the clue: ‘state that borders Mexico’, starting with A, and try to put in ‘Atlantic Ocean.’  Or they look at the clue: ‘High ranking marine,’ with five spaces, and try to fit in ‘humpback whale.’

Obviously, they have to write really small when they do crosswords like that.  The boxes get so crowded that they have to stack letters on top of each other.  On the other hand, sometimes the word they want doesn’t work, because they don’t have enough letters to fill in all the boxes.  The clue will be: ‘balloon filler,’ needing four spaces, and they put in AIRR.

For some, the problem started back in school, with tests that had them fill in the blanks.  They’d get the history question, ‘The Gettysburg Address was delivered by……..’  They would go into that dark room and come out with, the Post Office.  Or, on a Geography quiz, the question would be, ‘The United States capital is in……’, and they put down, ‘total confusion.’

A fellow-student in one class would look at the first question on the test and panic.  Your name……….  He would wave his hand frantically, until the teacher said, “What is it, Myron?” and quickly write Myron down.

I had an uncle who liked to enjoy the company of a crossword puzzle book and a glass of wine after dinner.  After he passed on, I happened to pick up his puzzle book and look in it.  The clue would read: Lone Ranger’s horse, and he would have written GZODKE.  He had fooled us.  He didn’t like crossword puzzles at all!  He just liked the quiet, and a chance to drink.

Wine

’17 A to Z Challenge – V

Challenge2017

letter-v

 

 

 

 

Rat

Varmint – Vermin – Victor/Victim
VINDICATION –VICTORY!

When we last left our stalwart hero, the Pied Piper, he was valiantly attempting to rid his home of rats….

Back last June, when I chose these ‘V’ words, I wasn’t sure that I could achieve Victory – or who would be the victor, and who the victim.

I checked the air intake tube for the furnace, and found Ping-Pong-ball-sized stones piled above the steel grate, to prevent just this problem. Next, I checked the dryer vent.  This entailed emptying and moving a steel shelving unit in the basement.  Back in the corner was the 4-foot aluminum carpenter’s level.  I stood it against the wall, just outside the utility room door.

The dryer duct is expandable aluminum, hardly stronger than a potato chip bag, against the power of sharp little rats’ teeth. That corner was covered in dryer lint.  I used a shoe-box side and duct tape to close the gaping hole, and folded a small piece of chicken wire double, and screwed it over the outside vent.  That should keep any more from coming in.  Now I just had to deal with any left inside.

I put a trap outside, below the dryer vent, and 2 days later, caught a female, hopefully, trying and failing to get in. A week after, I drowned one in the peanut butter/swimming pool trap that I built from SightsNBytes direction.  Another week, and the Tonka Toy, Hungry, Hungry Hippo trap caught another female.  Just how big is this guy’s harem??

I removed the adhesive trap, because footprints proved it wasn’t sticky enough. One of the traps disappeared, even though I tie them down to prevent that.  I found a Dollar Store that had the old, reliable wooden trap – for $2.  The $12 special, now baited with soft chocolate cookie, nails yet another female.

New plastic and metal containers are bought. The amount of food disappearing goes down – but there’s still that occasional ‘gnaw, gnaw, gnaw’, some nights.  Wile E. Rat is still down there.  One day, an unmoved box of macaroni is emptied, and there, behind it, is the missing trap.  It’s down a shelf, and 6 feet away, on the other arm of an L-shaped shelving unit.

One day I go down to get something from the freezer. Dancer-cat rushes ahead and jumps up on it for his usual ruffling.  As I walk over to him, I ALMOST STEP ON THE RAT, padding across in front.  Later, Mr. 20/20 Hindsight Son asks, “Why didn’t you just stomp on him?”  Uh…. because he startled me, I hadn’t thought of doing that….and because I didn’t have my slippers on.

The next day, we go down again, only this time dancer-cat stands peering over the end of the freezer. Sure enough, there under the bottom shelf is Mr. Rat.  My well-shod feet are just waiting – but he won’t come out.  Would the cat go in??  I place him on the floor, but his way is blocked.  I move a box….and the rat is gone.

Later that evening, I go back downstairs. There’s that carpenter’s level.  I might as well put it on the workbench, because I’m going back in that corner to empty the cats’ litter tray….AND I DAMNED-NEAR STEP ON THE RAT AGAIN.  Here he is, almost in the middle of the floor.  I have the level.  Do I want to risk a $50 tool?  Hell, yes!  But the rat quickly scuttles under the work bench.

While the cats seem to have little or no interest in the rat(s), the dog does. He’s part terrier, and they’re bred to dig out rats.  Only, this one just goes downstairs and barks, usually when someone’s trying to sleep.  He’s deaf as a post, and has cataracts so bad that he bumps into things.  I think he just barks at the odors.

I was working on the computer one day. The wife later said she’d heard the dog in the basement.  I went down to the main floor, just as he jumped up on the couch.  We put a blanket there, and let him, but he acted guilty.  When I looked, he had one of his chewy toys in his mouth, which are not allowed up….but this toy had a tail.  Future evidence showed that he caught a rat in the same place he chased one a month before.  But is it the rat?

Rats piss and shit wherever they go. I can vacuum up the solid – several times Dust-Bustering the shelves, but the urine reeks.  We have a spray bottle of Febreze-like liquid.  It’s supposed to absorb odors.  I sprayed under my workbench.  I sprayed the linty corner – behind the steel shelves – behind the beer fridge and water softener – behind the freezer – under the storage shelves, and on the now-open spaces, avoiding all food….and went upstairs, a couple of weeks later.

The wife had started a load of wash, but with her recent knee operation, it was up to me to move the heavy wet laundry from washer to dryer. I went into the main floor powder/laundry room and flicked on the light.  Dancer-cat Micah jumped up on the dryer.  That’s not normal, but he’d been a bit more sucky than usual.  I flipped up the washer lid, and turned to open the dryer….and the cat is paying no attention to me.

There’s Mr. Rat, sitting on some hand towels, on a 4-foot-high shelf beyond the dryer. He’s always stayed in the basement. Oh yeah, I sprayed the shit outta that.  How did he get up here?  The dryer duct – gotta check that again.  What can I hit him with? What can I hit him with? There’s the wife’s ‘laundry stick’, for dunking or removing clothes from hot water.  It used to be the heavy wooden handle of a barbecue brush.

I can’t get at him because he’s tight to the shelf above, and the cat’s in the way. There I stand, with the raised baton in my hand, like an orchestra conductor.  He‘s not moving, because the cat will chase him (maybe), but the cat is interested.  Bit by bit, the cat oozes forward, until their noses are inches apart – slowly, the cat raises a paw….

Just before contact is made, the rat jumps. We have a sponge/ squeegee with a 3-foot handle for cleaning outside windows, leaning against the wall.  He jumps to that.  Then he lowers his nose to look for a safe landing spot – and I clop him a good one on the back of the head.

Holy shit – rats are tough! I expected death, or at least unconsciousness.  He performed a mid-air 360° tumble, and landed, squealing and thrashing, in a 14-inch-high, narrow, plastic garbage pail.  Can he climb out?  Can he jump out?  I’m not waiting to find out.

Quickly I grab the edge with my left hand and, still holding my Ninja club in my right, I head for the nearby front door. With both hands full, I don’t know how I got it open.  I told myself that I shut it behind me, so that cats couldn’t get out – but how?

I was just going to throw him into the middle of the road, but if he got in once, he might get in again.  This is a fight to the death! I run down the driveway, and set the pail on its side on the sidewalk.  He’s safe in there.  He ain’t comin’ out.

I dumped him out onto the concrete, and immediately administered several blows. I may have broken a front leg or two and/or some ribs, but I slowed him down.  Then I got 5 or 6 to the head. Do. You. Know. How. Many. Nachos. You. Ate? Broke the wife’s stick, and had to glue and tape it back together later.  Went to go back to the house, and here’s two cats leaking out the open door.  The next day, I took a photo in the rain, for proof.

SDC11058

And so, peace has descended upon Casa Archon. No more missing/spoiled food.  No more furtive movement.  No more squealing, rustling or gnawing.  I am the Victor!   😎

 

You Want It, We Got It

Junk

The wife and I are Mr. and Mrs. Just-In-Case. Over the years, if there’s been some small, inexpensive thing that could make our lives easier, we’ve purchased it.  As I bitched about in my ‘Autumn Housecleaning’ post, the problem is that we never get rid of things we no longer use.

Living as we have, in the same houses for decades, we have accumulated the greatest collection of ‘stuff’, some of it fairly non-standard.  We lived for a couple of years beside a single mother with two young daughters.  She acquired a long-term boyfriend who was there for more than just the free sex.  Whenever he tried to clean up, fix up or paint up, she never had any/the right tools, so she would tell him to go next door, and ask Archon if he might borrow something.

A tree branch had grown over the driveway where he wanted to park his car. Would I have a saw that he could use to cut it off?  We used to go camping when the kids were young.  How about a small, light bucksaw? Perfect!

Later, he wanted to clear out a lilac bush which had overgrown a fence corner. Did I have a small axe or hatchet that he could cut out the sucker shoots with? See ‘camping’, above.  Weekend after weekend this went on, many requests common, some, not as much.  A circular saw, a hand drill and set of bits, a pipe wrench(?), tape measure, carpenters’ level, (3-foot professional, or foot-long home version?) a pry-bar, (standard crowbar or 8 inch window jimmier?) all quickly, freely provided.

Finally, she wanted to reward him for the things he’d done around her place, by baking him a cake. For this, she wanted a spring-form cake pan.  “Go next door and ask (Mrs.) Archon if they have one.”  If it involves food, ‘Of course we do!’  As I handed it to him, he asked, “Do you guys have everything?”

I guess she didn’t understand the ‘spring-form’ concept. You’re supposed to unlatch the little clip on the side to increase the diameter and have the cake slide out.  Apparently she tried to remove it with a large butcher knife, ruining the non-stick, Teflon coating, and gouging the aluminum pan.  She felt badly, and bought a replacement at a Dollarama store, but it wasn’t the quality that the wife had found.

Loupe

Even now, there are things in our house that I’m sure few other homes contain. The son owns a jewellers’ loupe, that thing that you stick in your eye and hold in place with your eyebrow, which magnifies things 10 times.  He bought it from a local jeweller after he left high school, but can’t remember why.  I’ve used it often over the years to check the detail on some of the coins I’ve acquired.

Mortar and Pestle

Recently, the wife encountered a recipe that called for powdered ginger. We have fresh ginger root, grated ginger and dried, chunk ginger.  We also have a small, powerful little electric ‘thing’ useful for such tasks as grinding coffee.  It would quickly turn the dry chunks into powder, but the wife decided to go a different way.

(To the son) “Call your sister, and ask her if we can borrow her mortar and pestle.  She just bought one that she uses to crush herbs for cooking, home remedies and aromatherapy.”

The son replied, “Why bother her? When she bought the new one, I bought her old one from her.  It’s in my room.”  It now sits in pride of place, below the overstuffed spice rack in the kitchen, groaning under every spice known to man, and a couple only to Martians.  ‘Eat your heart out bland potatoes, Matt Damon.’

Into each life, a little weird must fall. It’s just that it falls a little harder and faster at our house.  😉

Words

Dictionary

If I didn’t know that the English language has been around a bit longer than me, I might be convinced that we were born twins.  It has cocooned and cuddled and confused and comforted and confounded me since before I went to school.  We have played together since I began to read, before I was five.

I’m a bit of a dab hand with my commas and colons, and I know the difference between subjective and subjunctive.  Neither punctuation nor construction will help with comprehension though, if you don’t use the right words.  My love has always been with the words.  It is their small, strong bodies that we hook together to form phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and entire essays and books.

I am the contradiction to the expectation that ‘girls are good at language, boys are good at math’.  Words have been my constant companions my entire life.  They have bedeviled, bedazzled, befuddled, bewildered, bemused and bewitched me for years.  Especially doing three crossword puzzles a day, there is not a week, and often not a day that goes by, that I don’t learn another word, or a usage to one I thought I knew so well.

Chunter – to continuously complain, especially in a low voice
A good English/Scottish word, which I don’t recall ever hearing in my English/Scottish hometown.

Crossword puzzle builders often get a little loose or ‘creative’ with definitions.  “Prurient” means, having lascivious or lustful thoughts or desires.  Prurient interest is not “Sex”.  Sex is the subject of much prurient interest.  Sex is often the object also.

Ricer

Sometimes they seem to have no real knowledge of the words they use, especially with obsolete technology.  ‘Potato cutter’ does not equal ‘ricer’, which pushes cooked potatoes out through small holes.  The online dictionary gives sample sentences to illustrate context and meaning.

Arrange on remaining fourth of mound yolks chopped or forced through a potato ricer.
But that doesn’t mean that it can’t put out a ricer now and again, when it’s feeling froggy.
Fluffiest mashed potatoes may require that they be put through a potato ricer.

The first sentence’s meaning seems straightforward.  I don’t know what medications you’d have to be on to write the second.  Do you know what that means, from that context??  I don’t!  And sentence three simply shows how similar but different things are misidentified.

If you didn’t use a masher, the potatoes are not ‘mashed.’  If you used a ricer, they are riced potatoes.  I use a mixer, and my potatoes are ‘whipped.’  They all look and taste alike, but they got there down different roads.  A multi-colored arc or ring, seen through snow or rain while facing the sun is a sundog, not a rainbow, which is only seen while facing away from the sun.  I know, I’m the only one who cares.  🙄

I haven’t read any of the Hunger Games books, or seen the movies but, based on trailers and promotional photos, I’m pretty sure that Katniss Everdeen is not a “crossbow-wielding” heroine, as the Wachowski brother who is now a sister, seems to think.  (S)he probably also believes that David killed Goliath with a slingshot, built from an inner-tube off his chariot.

My subconscious often goes on little trips by itself, leaving the rest of my mind behind, a fact most regular readers are probably aware of.  When it returns, like a cat proudly presenting a dead mouse, many times it will drop a word for me to examine.

When I wake up in the morning, (actually, usually after noon) or when I’m in the kitchen, using the mixer to produce those whipped potatoes, I suddenly am aware of a word, usually English, but sometimes French, Spanish or German.  Most, I am familiar with the definition of.  Some need a little catching up, and some just send me straight to the dictionary program.  Now where did I run into that one??!  What’s the meaning of the name Hatcher?  Nothing to do with birds, they were gatekeepers.

I worked with a young woman in a shoe plant, who had delusions of ability in newspaper publishing.  When she heard of my affliction, she wanted me to share some of the more abstruse words, so that she could expand her vocabulary.  Each working day for over six months, I handed her a notepad sheet with three recent visitors – words like;
larrup – a Dutch import meaning ‘to thrash’
jocund – cheerful, merry, gay, blithe, glad
hoyden – a tomboy
Eleuthera – a Greek word meaning freedom, and the name of a Caribbean island
indolent – avoiding exertion, slothful, lazy
lagniappe – a small extra gift, like a complimentary restaurant salad
louche – dubious, shady, disreputable
mordant – biting, sharply caustic or sarcastic, as wit or a speaker

Each year, I publish a post in which I give a good larruping to the indolent writers, too lazy to learn one homophone from another.  “Moving to the back of the room, he found a laundry shoot.”  Is that like a skeet shoot?  Or a grouse shoot??  Laundry shoot??! It would explain the holes in my underwear.

I can barely change a light bulb, or a faucet washer.  The most useful thing I ever made from wood was campfire kindling, but words are my constant companions and tools.  They have inspired, infused, inflamed and informed me.  They weigh nothing.  They take up no storage room, and I can give them to others to use, and yet always keep them for myself.

Autumn Housecleaning

broom

 

 

 

 

 

 

By which I mean, The Autumn of Our Lives.  When I first burst upon the blogging scene, I found a site titled A Hundred Things – A Hundred Days.  It was the tale of a woman trying to make her house neater by getting rid of accumulated, unneeded, unwanted, stuff.

At first, I thought she was writing about one item a day for the 100 days, but soon found that she was jettisoning 100 items, each day for 100 days – for a total of 10,000 pieces.  It could be a bag of screws, or a pile of paper.  It could be no-longer-worn winter boots and socks, but, a hundred things went out every day.

Both the wife and I are a bit OCD.  Children of Depression/ WW-II-raised, just-in-case parents, we have also accumulated far too much stuff in our house.  Wooden mop and snow-shovel handles, bits of metal – I’m like a magpie – odd nuts and bolts, old dog tags, split rings, chunks of leftover, and found, lumber.  We add shelving and storage units till there’s hardly room to walk or work.

I was only semi-joking when I told the son that, when we die, he’ll need to get a dumpster, and spend a week throwing things out.  Something needed to be done.  I started with the garage.  We can’t get a bicycle in, much less a car.  Plastic plant pots – empty, but never thrown away, the boxes from a new humidifier and printer, now broken down and thrown out – repair parts for a motorcycle I haven’t owned for ten years – the broken automobile tail-lights I replaced.

There were three weeks where I put out two full bags of garbage, not just an almost-full one – three weeks of two Blue Box recycling bins instead of one.  We gave the Kidney Foundation two boxes of goodies and, a month later, two more boxes went to Diabetes.  I’ve dropped off unneeded but usable items at the Salvation Army Thrift Store on my way to get my daily newspaper.

I gave the daughter several keys to locks which no longer exist, as well as several short lengths of light chain, which she can use to produce mobiles, wind chimes and other crafts for sale.  I opened a small box about twice as thick as a deck of cards.  From the weight, I expected to find a random collection of fasteners, but instead got 8 feet of chain heavy enough, but not long enough, to tow a car.  Why would I save that??!

I got rid of 20 tee shirts I never wear to the grandson, 14 of them from Jethro Tull, Moody Blues and Billy Joel concerts. I have a box with newspaper clippings, ticket stubs and concert programs.  I plan to ask the second-hand music shop if the programs would be of any value to them.  Included were jokes, cartoons and other items, some of which you’ve seen and others which will be added to future posts.

I gave the coin dealer at the market a margarine tub full of duplicate foreign coins, and received two packs of quarter-sized mounting brackets in return.  The young store manager bought out the lady who owned my second-hand book store for years.  To him, I gave a box of my old science fiction books, and have seven more boxes I plan to take in over time.  Many books are in poor condition, but he should be able to sell at least some of them.

The more things I throw away, the more things I find that I regret either finding, or having to make further decisions about.  I found six half-inch worm-gear hose-clamps – just like the four I bought to hook my rainwater barrels together.  We’ve lived here for 14 years.  We lived at the last place for 13.  I found peg-board tool-hangers and storage containers from my workbench at the house before that.  In one of the little trays was a complete set of 1/16th to ½ inch bits for my electric drill, lost and unused for almost 30 years.

In the same box, which sat on and made using my table-saw in the garage difficult, I found the wife’s portion of the family silver.  She had forgotten that she had it.  It’s actually only silver-plated flatware, produced by Wm. Rodgers & Co.  Back in the ‘30s and ‘40s, when money was tight, people were enticed to go to the movies with giveaways; attend a show, get a spoon, see a flick, get a fork.  When a bunch were accumulated, you got a free blue velvet tie-pouch to store them in.

I threw out a leather business card holder.  It contained a business card from every job I held where I rated one.  It also had cards from fellow Purchasing Agents, salesmen and technical reps I dealt with for years.  These were guys I ate, drank and partied with.

While much of what is getting tossed is just unlamented junk, things like the card holder delineated our careers and lives.  They are full of nostalgia, meaning, and fond memories.  Sadly, now, in the autumn of our years, they only create and gather dust, and take up space.  The cleanup continues.