Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In Praise of Yard Sales

  My very first power tool, a drill, died.
(You always remember the first fondly)
It was a gift and had been bought new almost 40 years ago; it was good quality and has since outlasted just about every tool in my collection. Not being a professional tradesman my tools are not for daily use. Although I cannot afford the very best brands I still try to get something durable and make it last. Some favorite tools of mine even acquired names (but I wouldn't share something so intimate).
  So there was my drill, dead.
  Made around 1975, it was steel bodied and durable, reversible and variable speed. It was on its third chuck, had been dropped, kicked, drop-kicked, squeezed in a vise, frozen in the snow and overheated numerous times. It had drilled, screwed and unscrewed, driven bolts, reamed, polished, honed, spun, cut hardwood plugs, and spent hours wire-brushing rust from old metal. The brushes and armature had been cleaned and polished, the reduction gears greased twice and the cord had been repaired three times. When it finally died I knew every part in detail but (sigh) it was beyond repair.
  Too bad.
  Good tools like that are hard to find.

  Contrast that to just the week before, when a hammer-drill I'd owned less than four years packed it in.
  It was not expensive, the outer case was plastic, but it came, as modern tools do, with a handy box full of bits and accessories.  It worked adequately, but after 'Adam Squared' (Adam & Adam the carpenters) borrowed it to run 3/4" bolts into concrete to build our deck.  "We had one just like it," shorter Adam was grinning, "but it fell apart." After it was returned to me it rattled ominously. My final task of drilling tapcon screws into concrete was the last straw...  no more drilling, no more hammer-drilling, just a death rattle. Opening it up revealed the main ring gear had teeth ground to nothing in one spot. The whole drill was cheaply made; and I didn't grieve it like my old steel-bodied drill because it was throw-away quality.

  Time to buy some new tools!
Building a house these last few years has been a great excuse to spend some real money on good tools, but this day I realized that unless I was willing to spend a couple hundred bucks, the best quality I could expect these days was similar to the hammer drill. Plastic and cheap.
   Like an unwanted thought, it came to my mind several times that maybe I could find a good old quality drill somewhere like a yard sale.
   The next Saturday it was a beautiful morning, mist in the low areas, and a great time to be out. It kept coming to mind to go out and check yard sales. I hadn't frequented yard sales for a couple of years.  I doubted I'd find any decent, reliable steel-bodied drill like old faithful.
  "Pray about your old drill" the thought jumped into my mind.  I was sure that was a stupid idea.  God doesn't have time to be concerned about something so trivial as a drill.  
  "Pray about it." came the thought again.
  So I did.
  Feeling stupid, I prayed I'd find a replacement for my good old drill.
  Down the road to Wooler, the nearest town, was a sign for a yard sale. The first I saw that day. It was at a house beside Old Wooler Rd. Through the car window I didn't see many prospects.  Clothing on a rack, some old furniture and kids toys. No tools to be seen. Something told me to get out of the car, to take a better look.
  Inside a cabinet drawer were three tools; a crappy belt-sander and a SEARS battery-powered electric screwdriver, probably shot...
and my drill...
  My heart beat a little faster.

  Here was the exact twin to my faithful old drill, and hardly used at all.  The original chuck was still in place and the original chuck-key was attached to the cord. The steel body was shiny. Even the label was in place and the lack of scars showed this drill hadn't been (ab)used much.

  The only problem was the cord was starting to split where it joined the drill - just where I'd repaired this drills twin brother three times before.    

  "How much?" I asked the lady, holding up the drill as

  "Five bucks."

  For the price of a round of coffees at Tim Horton's, I may have this drill for another 40 years.
  Maybe God cares about little things after all.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

When things go awry...

The other day, after a long absence, I went into my website (www.reneschmidt.ca) to post an updated page about my 2013 book, Canadian Disasters (now in bookstores near you!).   
I also needed to clean house.
I felt like Doctor Zhivago seeing all those cobwebs in his Siberian cottage;  The comments cache was deluged with thousands of robo messages the comments cache.  Fourteen thousand  comments were there, ranging from polite requests to visit posts with mysterious foreign addresses like; zapoznaj się z innymi artykułami
and there were lengthy oriental posts such as:  教育自分をリンス 可能性がに糞 あなしますが間違いなくないそれらのほとんどは 可能性がガソリンにUnreadable to me, except the message: Here is my weblog:  たのしますが
There were also flattering but generic compliments: My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post's to be what precisely I'm looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content in your case? I wouldn't mind publishing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you write in relation to here.  By the way check out my page:  xxhgytppption.com 

So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.  With trance-like vision I began bulk-selecting 20 at a time while scanning them for the rare genuine request; Dear Mr. Schmidt, I was wondering if you could come to our school and talk about your recent book...
OR Dear Mr. Schmidt, you visited our library last year and we'd like you to return...

Twenty robo comments at a time fell to my murderous keystrokes; purveyors of Calvin Klein knock-offs, penis enhancers, sellers of Nike Air or free stuff, offerers of editing services, renters of hotels and airline deals, and thousands of offers to speed up my Mac. Page after page were marked for deletion and I saw the numbers gradually go down. After a few hours it even began to feel like I was doing something important... "No, I wasn't planning to finish those countertops today... "  Use the computer?  Well, I'm kind of busy right now..." "Email somebody?  Why don't I do that for you.  Tomorrow. It'll be faster..." 
Somewhere in the middle I found a message from Hennie W. - our erstwhile babysitter from Zaandam, Holland, who came as au-pair girl to Hamilton to help take care of my brothers and me when our parents were working. I was just four, but have happy memories of her . In May, while in Holland, Hennie and her husband hosted Shirley and me for an afternoon, including sightseeing at Madurodam and a pancake dinner. (Halo Hennie!) She had great memories for us and I remembered her laugh.

After removing 4000 plus comments I went to bed, but the next day I could no longer log in to my website.  Firefox couldn't flame it, Safari couldn't discover a way into it, and even mighty Google Chrome couldn't peek in.  I phoned my webpage guru, who is supposed to charge me a yearly fee to keep my domain name intact, (and who hasn't charged me yet), and he got me into it once, but after that I was blocked again.
Stuff should work.
So anyone trying to reach me, just email me at MisterS@accglobal.net

But there's another reason my face is red.  

I owe Mr. Toyota an apology.
Months ago I suggested the 2005 Toyota Corolla is for paranoid people only.  The doors lock with malevolent regularity just when I needed them to be open and accessible. It was far and away the most annoying car I'd ever owned. The doors locked when I started, stopped, put it in gear, took it out, stopped, started...
But a couple of weeks ago my mechanic mentioned in passing that the Toyota could be programmed to lock or unlock its doors with various key and transmission positions. It's in the owner's manual, of course (but I don't have a manual).
So I looked it up on google and found the solution.
All fixed.
The car is much better behaved. The doors stay unlocked until I want them locked up.
Sorry Mr. Toyota.