Wednesday, June 25 2008
I spent the entire day working on the kitchen stove hood project. This project had begun, as many do, with a deal: a $10 microwave oven at a yard sale, one with an integrated turntable to ensure even cooking of foods. This wasn't its only feature that made it superior to our existing microwave; it was much more compact and it was also less offensive to Gretchen because there were no meats mentioned on its button presets (just popcorn and potato).
Perhaps if I'd looked into the future, at all the work it would require me to undertake, I wouldn't have bought that ten dollar microwave. In removing the old one I was also getting rid of its integrated hood fan and stove light, features that had been controlled by push button commands to its microcontroller. To maintain this functionality, I'd have to do it from scratch (though of course I'd be controlling the fan and light with simple electrical switches, not blister buttons attached to a microcontroller).
The kitchen stove is in the northeast corner of the kitchen against a 45 inch long diagonal false wall across that corner. One of the things I did today was remove a good portion of the center of that wall so that I could set the new shelving unit and integrated stove hood back somewhat into the void behind it. I also wanted to build a low shelf directly behind the stove reaching all the way to the actual corner, a space that had always been wasted. One of the things I've learned about workplaces is that it pays to take the time to make every bit of real estate useful in high productivity areas such as around computer workstations. The stove qualified as such a productivity area, and the fact that so much nearby room had been cut off from was something of an ongoing ergonomic crime.
I had some sixteen inch planks with which to make my the shelving unit which would support the smaller microwave and other items above the stove hood. The bottom shelf of the unit would be the steel hood itself, that found piece of metal from the abandoned go cart track, and the microwave would sit directly on top of it. I thought, though, that I'd have to beef up the structural integrity of the hood by welding a girder down the middle of it. But I found the thick enamel paint on it nearly impossible to remove (a prerequisite in the places where I'd be welding). An attempted weld ultimately failed and I eventually abandoned the idea; the hood was from a very old appliance from the days when Art Deco was still popular and was made of much thicker sheet metal than any I've seen in other applications (automobiles, computers, etc.) I decided it didn't need any structural support after all; I'd just screw it to the bottom of the wooden shelving unit and slap the whole thing on the wall.
I framed a very solid set of short intersecting joists in the void behind the stove upon which I'd be putting the new shelf, which I had plans of eventually tiling. For now, though, it was enough to sheathe it with a single layer of Hardibacker.
Periodically I'd take a break from my work to watch segments of a Frontline series entitled The Age of AIDS about the (still) ongoing global AIDS crisis. I was watching the second two hour episode, focusing on the later stages of the epidemic, as more countries became aware of it and as the "cocktail" emerged as successful (but expensive) means for maintaining the health of AIDS patients. It was yet more evidence of the foolishness of governments, particularly democracies, when dealing with crises. Because of Americans' hangups about sex and drugs, it was politically impossible in this country to institute a needle exchange program during the Clinton administration. Later, after Clinton was replaced by the even more prudish Bushies, attempts to halt the spread of AIDS in Africa were damaged by a sudden squeamishness about condoms. Meanwhile, the South African government's official policy was to deny that HIV caused AIDS, and AIDS spread basically unchecked throughout that country. The only truly effective governmental policies regarding AIDS emerged in Uganda early in the pandemic and then later in China after the SARS scare caused them to switch from denial to obsessive intercession. China's government is an easy one for people in the West to hate (we're always bringing up the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the oppressive occupation of Tibet, their relative lack of concern for the value of human life, and "Dey're tekkin er jerbs!"), but the Chinese government occasionally gets things completely right in ways that would be impossible if it were accountable to a selfish, willfully ignorant populace (as are governments in the West). The one child per family policy, for example, forestalled all sorts of problems that had once seemed inevitable.
I'm a news junkie, but the news usually isn't good. In recent days it's been full of stories of Barack Obama's triangulation for the swing vote. On the FISA issue, where it seems easy to frame his principled previous stance as one anyone should be able to support, he instead chooses to abandon it and cave in to a version of the law essentially written by the current administration. Though I disagree with him and I have to imagine privately he disagrees with his public self, I have to give Obama props on coming out against the Supreme Court early in the news cycle when they ruled that child rapists shouldn't be put to death if the child survives. What American politician doesn't crave the opportunity to take a strong stance against child rape? (One wonders where the McCain people were when this decision came down.) As for Obama's decision to forego public financing of his general election campaign, I have no problem whatsoever with that promise not being kept. He's going to have to buy a lot of advertising to hit back against the attacks that are coming. And believe me, they're coming.
In amongst all the bad news, though, there was some good news that really and truly gave me hope. It was a New York Times article about how the rise in the price of gasoline is already starting to close the book on American suburbia. I can't wait until Alpharetta, Georgia is nothing but a low-density warren of prostitution and crackmcmansions.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next