Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cabinets work ever so much better...

Cabinets work ever so much better ... when the drawers and doors have handles!  We had our island cabinet (at right) refinished to match our kitchen color scheme.  The original cabinet was cherry, or possibly maple stained cherry color: a bright red that clashed with both the kitchen as we bought it, and the kitchen as we remodeled it :)  As if that wasn't bad enough, the drawer pulls and cabinet knobs were horrible, cheap things that were different than all the other cabinet hardware in the kitchen.

So I located a source for “basket” handles that match the rest of our kitchen cabinet hardware.  These aren't the handles we'd have chosen, but they're ok – and for now it's simpler to match them than to try to replace them.  Naturally the holes for the new hardware didn't match the holes for the old hardware – so when the cabinet was refinished, we had them fill in the old holes for us, with plastic wood.

For a few weeks now, I've had a box full of cabinet handles that needed to be installed.  Today was a good day for it :)

The doors were easy for me to decide where to mount the handles: I just matched what the rest of the cabinets did.  For the drawers, it's a little more complicated.  I discovered (with a little googling) that there are three schools of thought about how high to mount drawer pulls:
  1. Find the shortest (height-wise) drawer and center its pull – then mount all the rest of the pulls the same distance down from the top of the drawer.
  2. Mount each drawer's pull vertically in the center of the drawer.
  3. Mount each drawer's pull about one third of the drawer's height from the top.
Who knew that mounting a damned handle could be so complicated?  I looked at pictures of all three styles, and they all looked fine to me.  Then it occurred to me to see what our cabinet maker did, in our bathroom vanity and in the cattery.  He chose method number 1, so I copied him :)

To reduce the chance of making an ugly mistake (by drilling a hole in the wrong place), I built a couple of simple jigs (photo at right).  The left hand one is for the drawer pulls, the right hand one for the door handles.  Each jig has two holes in it, in exactly the right place for the screws that hold the handles on.  All I had to do for each drawer and door was to mark where the center of the handle would be; the jig did all the rest.  I just clamped the jig into position for each drawer and door, drilled the two holes, and installed the handle.  Eleven jig positionings, twenty two holes, and twenty two screws later, it's all done – and without any embarrassing mistakes :)

We are flagpole-ready!

We are flagpole-ready!  Now we just need the flagpole!!  This little project got delayed by the 2.5" of rain we had earlier in the week.  The rain hit while the concrete was curing (that's actually good!) and I had large piles of the excavated soil next to the concrete.  The rain turned the soil into glop that formed itself all around the underlying grass – and then turned into something approaching the hardness of concrete when it dried out.  It took me about eight hours of hard work with a garden rake to break up all that hardened clay and get it up and out of there.  That'll learn me – if I ever do something like this again, I'm putting a piece of plastic under the dirt pile!

You can see some roughly laid sod around the concrete.  I'm not concerned with that, because in the spring I'm going to do something that my brother Scott thought up: plant red, white, and blue clematis around the concrete and train it up a to-be-designed arbor.  That will not only add some nice color to the otherwise plain green grass, it will also hide the concrete – and the lights I'm planning to put there (to illuminate the flag at night)...

Blooming right now...

Blooming right now ... in our front yard.  I think they're very confused crocuses (croci?); my mom thinks there some kind of fake crocus.  Whatever they are, they're a welcome spot of color this time of year!

Workforce participation down...

Workforce participation down...  In an article primarily about other things, I ran across the graph at right (click to embiggen).  It's a graph of “workforce participation” for men, from 1948 through today.  Workforce participation is one of those rare, raw, unadjusted numbers provided by the government – it's simply the percentage of all men who are employed (whether full- or part-time).  There are no adjustments, as there are with the unemployment numbers, for things like people who have given up looking for a job.

Elsewhere I have read that the workforce participation rate is highly correlated with growth in GDP.  This makes intuitive sense, as you'd expect that if more people are working, they'd produce more.  The converse must also be true: if there are less people working, then they'd produce less – and the GDP growth rate would be slower.

I entered the workforce in the late '60s, when the workforce participation rate for men was around 78%.  Today it's around 65%.  Given that there are about 158 million men in the U.S. today, the difference between 78% and 65% is about 21 million men.  If the workforce participation rate was still 78% today, there would be about 21 million more men working.  That's an astonishingly large number.

Why has the workforce participation rate gone down?  I can think of several contributing factors, but I really have no idea about their relative size:
  • More women are in the workforce today (proportionally), and surely some of them have displaced men.
  • The rise of the welfare state has reduced the incentive (and need) to be employed.
  • More men (proportionally) are going to college, and are therefore entering the workforce later.
  • Men are living longer after retirement, when they are not part of the workforce.
  • Possibly there is some measurement error, with older data not including illegal or migratory immigrants.

“…it’s going to do more harm than good...”

“…it’s going to do more harm than good...”  A medical student takes on the uber-quack Dr. Oz...

Bardabunga Volcano...

Bardabunga Volcano...