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Flooring Installation as a Test of Personality

Beautiful Hardwood Flooring

This is NOT my home.

You learn a lot about human nature when you ask your friends and family members to help you put down new flooring, just as you almost never learn anything good when you try to do it yourself.

For example, I’ve learned that my brother Bob is first rate perfectionist, one who follows the dictum that the careful workman measures twice and cuts once. He does close work well, and because he takes his time and does thing correctly, his finished flooring looks like it was installed by professional. (He makes relatively ordinary oak flooring look like a million dollars.)

I, on the other hand, have learned that I am a sort of slapdash, happy-go-lucky fool, content to eyeball things into place, using a circular saw when a mitre saw is better, and a steel hammer when a rubber mallet is required. My flooring looks like it was put in by hobos; hobos who were being paid with jugs of cheap wine and ham sandwiches.

How two people with the same parents, birthed only two years apart, could turn out so differently with regard to working styles is one of the true mysteries of genetics. I have no patience for these intricate jobs, while he was able to build our mother an entire house. He can do almost anything with his hands, while my do it yourself skills usually end at making sandwiches for hobos.

You learn a lot when you’re putting down flooring. Not all of it good.

The iThermostat

When did Thermostats start looking like iPhones?

Heatmiser Thermostat

I admit that what you see above is an intuitive interface, or at least this has become intuitive for hundreds of millions of young people worldwide who spend most of their waking hours tapping away at their cellphones. It looks like you could play Angry Birds on it, while you’re making a call to the furnace repair man.

This thermostat, from the aptly named Heat Miser, is called the “TouchPad”. Here’s the description of this marvel of modern ergonomics.

The TouchPad features a TFT colour touch screen, giving you central control of up to 32 zones of heating. There really is no better way to take control of your heating. You are able to give each thermostat a name allowing you to easily identify each thermostat on the network.

You can give each thermostat a name?

Woah. Talk about your 21st Century problems: what to name your thermostat? Do you go with a traditional human name like Emily or Jacob? Or, something hi-tech and computery, like Eniac 2000, or (heaven forfend) the Hal-9000? I suspect that most people will go with boring monikers, like Rear Bedroom and Front Hallway.

Of course, when I was growing up, there was only one thermostat in the whole house, and it looked like this…

Old School Thermostat

And you didn’t give it a name.

Names were for people and pets, and cars, ships, guns, and maybe pieces of heavy machinery like printing presses and iron smelters. Things that had souls, or nearly so, not inanimate doo-hickies that lodged on your wall at home and caused the furnace to kick on when the temperature got below of 68 degrees.

We live in strange and disturbing times.

Bakokko: Lessons in Style

As in many areas of style and fashion, the dividing line between exquisite good taste and execrable bad taste is remarkably thin. The same company that produces achingly beautiful objects one day, can produce items that are almost comically over-the-top the next.

Take, for example, the Italian furniture manufacturer Bakokko, producer of this beautiful, restrained, classical love seat (found at the LA Furniture website):

Bakokko Loveseat

I love everything about this piece of furniture; the green leather, the curve of the legs, the figured wood with that finish. I want this piece for my house so bad it’s making my teeth hurt.

Now, consider this divan from Bakokko, the San Marco in green and white:

San Marco Divan from Bokakko

It’s ponderous, squatting on the floor like an upholstered chest freezer, dominating any room that’s smaller then a squash court. Worse, the busy pattern of the fabric and the gilded filigree on the frame are both fussy and old-ladyish, like something your great aunt would choose for window treatments.

I wouldn’t want this piece of furniture, and I probably wouldn’t want to live in any house that this divan was appropriate for. It’s just not my style, no matter how well made and richly upholstered it is.

Ultimately, I suppose what I’m really complaining about are the vagaries of personal taste. I’m clearly not the market for that white and green divan. Bakokko is aiming to sell furniture like that to people with more baroque sensibilities, perhaps someone like a Russian oligarch, who appreciates heavy furniture, brocaded fabric and ostentatiousness. So, one could say that it’s not Bakokko’s fault that they occasionally make furniture that seems over-the-top, because they’re catering to a clientele that likes over the top.

Deocrating My Imaginary Restaurant

Il Milione Restaurant in Hong Kong

Sometime I like to imagine that I’m opening up a high-end restaurant or bar, which is odd, because my very brief brush with working in a restaurant, bussing tables, left me scarred for life. But then I see a picture like the one above, of the restaurant Il Milione in Hong Kong, and think that I’d like to own a restaurant.

I have to clarify that I don’t want to be a celebrity chef, I just want to be the owner, the guy who sits at the bar talking to customers and occasionally easting tasty things my chef sends out from the kitchen.

Here’s another picture from Il Milione (taken from the website of Hill Cross Furniture, the English firm that provided all of the furnishings.)

Il Milione Restaurant in Hong Kong

This is the real reason why I want to own a restaurant, because I want to hang out in semi-public spaces that look like this, and because I want people to admire my good taste.

Also, because building a restaurant is the ultimate exercise in remodeling, you find a space, imagine what it will look like, and then try to impose your vision on that space given your budget and the competency of your workmen and contractors. Picking out chairs and tables to put in my imaginary restaurant is my idea of fun.

Happily, I know my limits. Building the restaurant according to my vision, and sitting at the bar in it after it’s open, is about as far as I want to actually go in the food service industry.

Today I Worship the Hammer

Eastwing 24oz Rip Hammer with Leather Grip

“Today I worship the hammer,” so ends American poet Carl Sandberg’s short poem “The Hammer“, which isn’t really about hammers so much as humankind’s dualistic nature as builder and destroyer. But, whatever, it’s a good opening line for a short meditation on high-quality hammers and their utility.

What you see above is my favorite hammer, a 24 ounce, Eastwing Leather-Handle Rip Hammer in a straight English pattern. I love it. It feels magnificent in my hand, a beautifully balanced, precision tooled piece of cold steel, made warm to the touch by a piece of cow hide leather.

A well-built, one-piece steel hammer is a pleasure to use. The force of the blow transfers exactly to where you apply it, a mis-strike won’t snap the head off, and the good balance means it’s easy to wield.

Hammers are the King of All Tools, the direct, straight-line descendent of that first rock our distant ancestor, homo habilis, picked up and banged on a coconut, or the bone of a mammoth, or the head of his neighbor. All we’ve done to the hammer since then is improve on the basic concept; added a handle, made it from hardened metal, and attached something that lets us put out the nail we’ve just bent with a clumsy blow.

The hammer: it builds, it destroys. Tools don’t get any better than that.