Monday, January 21, 2013

Stuff Worth Owning: Ace Hardware 10-in-1 Screwdriver

That's a long title, but there's no way to shorten it.  I don't remember what I was shopping for at the Ace Hardware in Clinton TN, but these bright yellow screwdrivers caught my eye at the checkout.  I'm not usually diverted by impulse items at the checkout, but ask my kids and they will tell you loudly that I have an especial weakness for tools in general and screwdrivers in particular.  Hell, I've even made screwdrivers when I needed a special one.  A display of screwdrivers next to the register can almost suck the credit card right out of my hand.

I can't find the screwdriver on Ace's website, but this is it:

The handiest tool in the junk drawer.  I paid about $8.00

Recently I had a bit of a meltdown with my Maytag Neptune laundry stack.  Now I'm a pretty good fan of Maytag appliances, but not the post-Whirlpool buyout models.  Maytag stopped being the standard of excellence sometime around 2000 or so.  Maytag had lost a fair portion of its reputation by the time of the buyout, but since then its reputation is completely gone.  It's only a division of Whirlpool now: a brand, not a manufacturer.  What made Maytag equipment unique and durable is no more.

But my Neptune pair is from a few years before the buyout.  Even so, it turns out the Neptune line is not without problems.  Get online and start looking up Neptune control problems, and you'll see this phrase a lot: "R11 resistor burned," and "Q7 Triac failure."  My machine's board had both of those fail.  The net result is that the machine won't spin out and clothes are sopping wet at the end of the cycle. When that happens, Maytag's pat answer is to replace the entire board.  The list price on a new board is over $200, but I lucked out and found a local electronics purveyor who had purchased an appliance dealer's old inventory, and wasn't fully cognizant of what he had.  My price: $60, including postage.  I only took the step of replacing the board after trying and failing to replace the burned resistor and triac.  Some people have successfully made that repair, but evidently my soldering mojo is so far limited only to plumbing.  I'll keep working on it though.

So what does it take to replace the board?  Look back at the screwdriver.

That's it.  I don't need any other tools to take my Maytag Neptune completely apart.  It takes one size of Torx driver (included in the driver's array of bits), two sizes of nut driver (take the bit out and there it is), and one size of Phillips driver.  Sometimes you need a regular screwdriver to pop an electrical connector loose: not a problem.  This one tool removes the door (not really necessary), top, front, control panel, everything.  It's not until you get even farther back inside the machine that you encounter fasteners that are beyond this tool's capacity.  At that point my entire upper body would be inside the machine.

To be completely frank I'm not a huge fan of multi-bit screwdrivers.  Too often you find the multi-bittedness of the tool is part of what makes it unacceptable in lots of ways: having nesting parts makes the shank really thick, so it's no good for getting deep-set screws in appliances, tucked far down in narrow holes.  Or sometimes what you need is a screwdriver on this side and a nutdriver on that side at the same time, to keep things from turning while you're trying to loosen or tighten fasteners.  With the multi-bit screwdriver, you only have the one tool at a time.

All of that said, I first made some exploratory forays into the machine and discovered at that time that the multi-bit Ace screwdriver answered every need.  I had gathered my ratchet set, a couple of different screwdrivers and even a Vise-Grip, just in case.  When everything was done however, all my tool cases were still closed and the Ace was in my pocket.  So when I got the replacement part in the mail, I didn't go to the shop at all.  I cracked open the junk drawer and reached for that chunky, bright yellow handle with the Ace logo and got to work.  20 minutes later, my first post-meltdown load of laundry was up and running.

I remember asking the young lady behind the counter where the tool was made.  She wasn't able to nail down the manufacturer - neither was I in research prepping for this post - but she did confirm it was made in the USA, so if nothing else that might be good enough.

Like I said, not a huge fan of multi-bits, but I'm a huge fan of this one.  Shop around, get a couple.  Put one in the car, one in the shop.

And one in the junk drawer.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


If you see an ad on my blog that says anything against Barack Obama, disregard it.

That's right, ignore it all.  Of course I can't compel you to do anything whatsoever, so you're going to do whatever you want and more power to you.  However I can say this: don't believe any ad you see on my site must necessarily reflect my own beliefs.

There's an ad on here right now that says "Barack Obama wants to BAN GUNS!  Don't let him do it!"

I say, do let him do it.  There are a boatload of guns out there getting bought up that shouldn't be legal to sell.  Obama doesn't want to ban all guns and only a simpleton would believe that he does.  Ads like this are just more right-wing, ultra-conservative rabble rousing.

Don't let yourself be roused.  That's how you separate yourself from the rabble.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Stuff Worth Owning: Bear & Son Cutlery

Last summer I had the chance to visit my grandmother, whom I love very dearly.  Gram is getting up there in years, closer to 100 than 80, I think.  And yet even though she can't get around quite as well as she used to, she's still Grandma, and only getting to see her for a single afternoon would have been worth the trip.

We got to see her much more than just the once, of course.  We even went to church with her, the first time I'd been to church with my grandmother since one late Christmas Eve service when I was about four years old.  And I very much enjoyed that.

But to get to see Grandma means taking a flight.  It could mean driving for two days, but we took the flight instead.  Flying ain't cheap, but it has its upsides - avoiding two days of driving being chief among them.  But there are other encumbrances that go along with flying.

You can't take your pocketknife with you.  The TSA has their own idea of what is and isn't acceptable aboard a domestic flight from East Tennessee to Minnesota, two hotspots of insurgent violence to be sure, but they're also pretty intractable when you try to challenge them on their mission, and things can get ugly.  So my pocketknife, keys, Leatherman multitool and even my nicer hat all had to stay behind.  I had the very basic-est of possessions in my carry-on bag and as little metal as I could possibly have.  And even so I wound having to pause while the agent waved his wand over me.  Rivets on the jeans, forgot about those.  Ah well.

Get to Minnesota, connect with my dad with whom we were staying (Gram has moved to an assisted-living apartment and has no room for guests), and kept feeling like I'd left something on the plane.

I hadn't, of course.  But the feeling stuck with me until two days later when I finally decided my entire problem was the utter emptiness of my pockets.

Well.  Can't have that.  While visiting Gram, I popped downtown (this requires walking three blocks in Grandma's little town) to the local Hardware Hank store and bought a knife.

My computer's card reader isn't behaving, so I can't upload pictures of the knife, but let's go to the manufacturer.
That's the one.
This is the Bear and Son Cutlery Model 247R, the rosewood-handled "Large Stockman."  And I like it.  It's in the current catalog as the 47R, but it's the same knife.

It's actually a decently large pocketknife, 4" long and pleasantly heavy.  I don't have especially large hands but some of those cute little Swiss Army pocketknives are just too small.  You don't handle them as much as finger them; this knife you can hold and know you've got a decent grip on it.  And with that in my pocket, I could relax.

I think part of the discomfort of having nothing in my pockets is that I'm a handyman.  As a handyman, having no tools is like having a hand tied behind my back.  Now, with a tool on hand, I was suddenly much more capable.

Straight out of the box, it was wicked sharp and even now, six months later, I haven't had to sharpen it.  Bear & Son uses a high-carbon stainless steel, the higher carbon content makes it a harder steel that can be a bit of a pain to sharpen...but you don't need to sharpen it very often, so it's a wash.  And it's still stainless enough that owning it isn't an exercise in rust prevention.

Now that I've had the knife for six months, I find myself making room in my pocket for it, even though I'm back home and have my Leatherman on my belt.  It's not that much extra weight, most days if I don't need it I won't even remember it's there...but there are those rare occasions when you need an extra knife - or I have a helper who is using the Leatherman, and then I need a knife.

If I have any complaints, it's this: the spay blade is pretty darned stiff.  Opening that out felt like I was going to fold my fingernails backwards, and it hasn't loosened up much.  I don't do much animal spaying so getting that blade out is a deliberate act, a choice to work the blade against its resistance in the hope of having it available when needed.

That's it.  Folding it back up, back onto the "pocket shelf," where all my pocket and belt gear waits until the morning loadout.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Update: Automatic Weapons and Legitimate Sporting Use

I had the opportunity to speak to an actual hunter last week and he told me that not only would you not likely get the chance to use a second bullet in your clip, let alone a third...

"'Cause if you miss him with the first shot, that buck is gone.  Forget it, he's just gone."

...but if you're inspected by a game warden while out hunting, there are restrictions on exactly how many rounds you can have in a clip in your gun.  And the limit isn't somewhere close to the 30-round capacity of an AR-15, it's more like five.  FIVE.

And like my hunting acquaintance pointed out, it's really only the first one that you're likely to get to use.

"And if you're caught with that many rounds in the gun, the warden'll just take your gun.  Confiscate it, slap with you a fine, and you deserve it.  Those aren't armored-up deer out there, you don't need that many rounds in your gun."

I asked him about having an AR-15 for "home defense."

"Not useful.  Rounds go right through walls, so if you miss you might hit your own family on the other side of the wall.  If you're worried about home defense, a shotgun full of birdshot is better.  Won't go through the walls.  Of course, if I was really worried about home defense, I'd move."

And there you have it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Not a Good Kid

It's become a thing in the news just lately, that a young girl in Steubenville, Ohio was raped in August 2012.  Exactly how the circumstances came to be what they were, that she was apparently unconscious and in the company of some high school football players, is unknown to me.  The word "party" has been uttered more than once, but in my experience the combination of the words "party" and "high school football" usually translates to "lots of unsupervised, underage drinking."

What happens next?  Well, given no supervision and lots of adulation from fans, evidently high school football players figure they can do whatever they want.  They raped the girl.

Several voices can be heard on the video.  None of the voices express any concern for the girl's well-being, let alone her consent to any of what was going on; in fact one even jokes that in light of her unresponsiveness to the ongoing sexual assault, she must be dead.

They also briefly debate whether it could even be construed as rape, since they didn't know whether she would have "wanted it" or not.  "Maybe that was her final wish."

Well, I can certainly understand where the young lady's father is coming from.  He wants the attackers hanged.  I think he has a point.

Those young men are old enough to make some smart choices with their lives.  They've seen enough about crime on the TV and seen enough of those crime shows to know what is and isn't a crime.  There has been too much glorification of taking when the taking can be done, of being "owed" or "deserving" access, privilege, superiority.  But they aren't using what little wisdom they could have developed.  Instead they are taking advantage of another person's incapacitation for their own wants and desires.  Their victim's wants and desires?  Not acknowledged, only mocked.

So why am I writing about this?  Certainly there's enough outrage going around but let me drop a little more. One of the kids' names is Michael Nodianos, and his attorney Dennis McNamara has this to say about him: "Michael is a really good kid from a really good family who did a really dumb thing and regrets it,"

A RAPIST IS NOT A GOOD KID.  A good kid would have recognized that the young lady was in harm's way and defended her.  Nodianos didn't do that.  He didn't even rise to the level of ambivalence; even mocking commentary in this instance cannot do anything but harm her psychologically.  At best, ambivalence would have been to walk away, but that didn't happen either.

Other bad kids, even worse ones, include Trent Mays - accused rapist.

Malik Richmond, accused rapist.

As soon as I learn more names, I will post them here.  No one should ever be permitted to get away with stuff like this.  It's the worst sort of behavior, and I would hope that the parents are tearing their hair, wondering exactly what the hell they did wrong that their kids turned out to be such monsters.

I don't support the death penalty.  But as a father, if it were my daughter in this situation, I would be murderously angry.