The Camping Thing will eventually be a cluster of five boxes with hinged lids and a flat bridge piece that will double as a table, but right now it’s just one box and I’m still trying to figure out how to fit it into the back of the van. It’s forty-eight inches wide, as wide as it could possibly be and still fit across the width of the space inside the back of the van between the wheels. The battery and electrical system which powers the fridge, lights, and charging outlets fits in half of this box. The other half will hold, um, I’m not sure yet. But there’s plenty of room left over.

I want to anchor this box (and all the rest of the boxes) to the steel bars bolted to the floor because I don’t want all that plywood flying around inside the van in the unfortunate event it should come to a sudden stop, as it would if it were to suddenly meet a tree or an oncoming truck. The sudden stop would be bad enough. So the problem to figure out today (there’s always a problem to figure out; nothing is ever simple) was how to make the box sit level. It leaned back about seven degrees after anchoring it, because the floor is not a flat surface, there’s a heating vent under the carpet, and two edges of the carpet overlap right under the front edge of the box.

I had to cut about a dozen shims to glue to the two by four to make the box lean forward so the top of it would line up with the rest of the boxes I plan to build in the next six to eight weeks. Hopefully six.

work at home

Pro tip: No matter how cold it gets in the garage, do not bring your project in to work on it on the dinner table, and particularly not if you’re going to be using power tools.

This was a really stupid mistake. Actually, it was a series of stupid mistakes: I was drilling through a piece of plywood with a quarter-inch bit on the dining room table; that’s the first stupid idea I had. I didn’t put a piece of scrap wood under the piece I was working on; that’s the second stupid idea I had. It was about an inch off the table so I thought if I was real careful I’d be okay; that’s the third stupid idea I had.

I always put a sacrificial piece of wood under the piece I’m cutting or drilling. I don’t know what I was thinking. Well, okay, obviously I wasn’t. But it’s such a rookie mistake. I never make that mistake any more. Except this time. Smack my damn head.

At about the time I knew the drill bit was going to come out the bottom, I eased pressure off the drill until the bit was just barely cutting into the wood. The problem with these bits, though, is that they’re very sharp and when they come out the bottom, the flutes bind against the inside of the hole and pull the bit through very suddenly. Which I already knew so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the bit came out the bottom, caught the wood and nearly yanked the drill out of my hands. The tip of the bit cut through the two tablecloths underneath and into the plastic mat as it twisted all that material into a big burly knot around the bit before I could take my finger off the trigger to stop the drill.

I was sure I had drilled a hole into the dinner table. I don’t know how I didn’t. I had to reverse the drill to back the bit out of the twisted-up mess of the tablecloth just to get a look at how bad the damage was. There wasn’t a scratch on the mahogany surface of the table. Not one I put in it with the power drill, anyway. Totally lucked out. Well, except for ruining two table cloths.


While skimming social media this morning I read one passing reference to the 1975 pop music hit “The Hustle” and GUESS WHAT’S BEEN PLAYING ON A LOOP IN MY HEAD EVER SINCE.

Kill me now.

(Warning to those who did not grow up in the 1970s: If you Google “The Hustle” DO NOT LISTEN TO IT. It’s one of those ‘Wheels On The Bus’ songs that never ends. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)


Smoky Robinson’s hit song “Tears of a Clown” sounds like a guy trying to get away with something. “I’m so bummed that you broke up with me. If you see me smiling that’s just me trying to cover up my feelings, I’m actually really sad. And if you see me having a good time at a party? That’s me just pretending. Honestly, I’m not enjoying myself at all, no matter how happy and carefree I look. Totally wrecked, that’s me.”


We had some good weather today, so I spent some time outside trying to get The Camping Thing ready for the season. “Do you know how long you were out there?” My Darling B asked me, after I finally came in later in the afternoon. “Long enough for me to finish the last 15% of a Stephen King novel!” Wow, that is a long time. (She does not recommend the novel.)

In it’s newest iteration, the bunk for The Camping Thing will be up front, and a chuck box will be in the back next to the fridge. The back end is where I’ve been storing all the kitchen stuff anyway, because the screened-in tent I pull over the open back end makes that the easiest place to get in and out of the van when I want to grab food or the camp stove. With that in mind, I’ve re-oriented the fridge to face the rear, as I originally had it. It worked a lot better that way, even though it was harder to get to from inside the van. I’ll have to work around that if I’m ever stuck inside due to rain or a zombie attack.

Re-orienting the fridge amounted to no more than rebuilding the plywood platform the fridge stands on. I built a platform mostly so it will be more or less level when I drop it into the well at the very back of the van. The well is slightly deeper in the front than in the back. I’m not sure it makes a difference to the fridge whether it’s level or not, but I wanted it to be level. Easier to work around that way.

After re-orienting the fridge I the sun came out and it got even warmer, so I cut some plywood and started to build the box that will span the width of the van in front of the fridge. This box will house the battery, the fuse box, and the electronics that keep the battery charged. It’s a very simple system that doesn’t need a lot of room, so I’ll have room left over to store other items, like maybe the tent for the back end.

I got most of the plywood cut and started to shape it and dry fit it but started to make stupid mistakes, the first sign that I was getting too tired to go on with the work, so I quit for the day, went inside and stretched out on the sofa with a glass of wine to relax for a bit before showering off.

I Cannot Picard

I’m a huge Star Trek fan from way back. I’ve watched every episode of the original series so many times that you can show me a two-second clip of any show and I can tell you which one it is. I stood in line outside the movie theater in freezing temps to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and when I finally got in and the lights went down I loved every long, tedious, boring minute of it (still do).

And I’ve been a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation from it’s rather uneven first season to its very enjoyable final season. While we were living overseas, my father used to tape our favorite shows and mail them to us, and we would fast-forward through them to binge-watch the episodes of ST:TNG. It was just a silly space opera but those characters grew on us like fast friends.

Which is why I really, really want to love Star Trek Picard, but I have to admit I don’t. I’m so disappointed by how bad it is. It is so bad.

The biggest disappointment is that they took a character I’ve really enjoyed watching through every chapter of his life and they made his final chapters so boring. I can’t get over how boring this series is. The pacing is so slow. It takes forever for any of the characters to say anything or do anything or figure anything out. They seem to struggle with everything. Every scene plods along so slowly that I feel like I want to get behind it and push. These should be compelling stories told in captivating dialogue, and instead they’re repellent and the dialogue is tired and empty. Doing this to a beloved character ought to be a crime.


From “The Joys of Yiddish” by Leo Rosten:

To help you distinguish kvitch from kvetch from krechtz (a salubrious set of niceties) I offer these observations:

You can kvitch sedately, charmingly, out of happiness; to kvetch is always negative, bilious, complaining; and to krechtz is to utter grating noises of physical discomfort or spiritual woe.

Kvitching may be hard on the ears, but kvetching is hard on the nerves. As for krechtzing, it should be reserved for a hospital room.

Some families produce personality types who are adept, even effusive, in their kvitching; other families specialize in kvetching — communal grousings drenched in self-pity; and some krechtz so loudly and so often that they sound like a convention of hypochondriacs.

If you take the trouble to familiarize yourself with the nuances of kvitching, kvetching, and krechtzing, you may zestfully add them to your arsenal of exclamatory locutions. Connoisseurs should enlist them for the relief of English words that are becoming exhausted from overwork.

The Camping Thing: The Rebirth

The most recent iteration of The Camping Thing was not satisfactory. I thought I might be able to get a good night’s sleep on a bunk that was just twenty-four inches wide, but that was a wildly optimistic idea. Trying to lay on a bunk that narrow was like trying to sleep on a window ledge. I gave it a shot but it just didn’t work out.

I’ve been sketching out new ideas for an updated version of The Camping Thing, something that will give me nearly the full width of the back end to sleep in, that will convert to a bench with a table so I can sit inside the van on rainy days, and that will still give me access to the fridge and the kitchen supplies without having to open up the back. The sketches are not complete; I’m still trying to figure out how to orient the storage for the kitchen supplies, for instance, but I’ve already built the lockers for the front of the van and I have a pretty solid plan for the rear lockers. I just needed to get the old version of The Camping Thing out of the van in order to proceed with building the latest version.

Today the sun came out for a few hours which were comfortably warm and sunshiny enough to make me want to work outside. My motivation is heavily dependent on weather. After cleaning up some of the mess in the garage to give myself enough room to work in, I opened up the van, unloaded all the camping supplies, and yanked The Camping Thing out of it and dragged it into the garage. Easy enough to do but it takes time because it’s heavy and I have to move slowly to make sure I don’t hurt myself or break The Camping Thing. The new version I’ve got in mind will be made up of smaller pieces which I hope will be easier to move around.

After getting it out of the van, I began the long and tedious task of taking it to pieces. I only intended to take the hinged lids off the top, a project which involved taking out the gas struts, removing the latches, and unscrewing the hinges. I figured unfastening all that hardware might take as much as two hours, but it went so smoothly that I kept on going until I had the whole thing completely disassembled and every piece of hardware and lumber was carefully (more or less) stowed in the garage in under two hours.

The next step involves building the rear lockers and fitting them so there’s plenty of room for me to stretch out while still leaving plenty of room for the fridge and the kitchen locker. I probably won’t get to that until later this week when the weather’s a little warmer (and drier – rain in the forecast!).


This garbage heap of grammatical errors was a huge hit as a pop song in the 1980s:

Sometimes I never leave, but sometimes I would
Sometimes I stay too long, sometimes I would
Sometimes it frightens me, sometimes it would
Sometimes I’m all alone and wish that I could
Until suddenly last summer
And then suddenly last summer

If you never leave, that’s called “staying.” You do it continuously. You never stop not leaving. And because you’re always doing it, you are, in effect, doing it just once. You couldn’t do it “sometimes.” If you were “staying” only “sometimes,” you would, by definition, have to leave occasionally.

Which might be what she’s getting at when she adds, “but sometimes I would.” Okay, fine, but then it’s “but sometimes I do.” Either that or the first part is “Sometimes I’d never leave,” which also doesn’t make any sense but at the very least it’s in the right tense. Keep your tenses straight, dammit. Same goes for the second and third lines!

“Sometimes I stay too long” seems a little bit redundant after saying “sometimes I never leave,” don’t you think? I do.

Not sure what frightens her. Never leaving? Or the very redundant staying too long? Something else? Maybe she could be a little more vague? I’m not a huge fan of ambiguity when it comes to pop songs.

“Sometimes I’m all alone” is pretty straightforward, but I have absolutely no freakin clue what she wishes she could. Do. Can’t even take a wild-ass guess. Maybe I’m missing something obvious but I think it’s more likely she’s trying to be mysterious by writing something open-ended and obtuse. Not a fan of that, either.

Speaking of mysterious:

One summer never ends, one summer never began
It keeps me standing still, it takes all my will
And then suddenly last summer

I mean, come on. If it never began, how does it never end? How does that make sense at all? I’m flummoxed.

All that being said, I still like this song. It’s got a really good sound and it reminds me of my college years. What’s not to love about that?