The Wondrous 1-2-3 Block

In my attempts to raise the level of craftsmanship around the Root Simple compound I’ve come to appreciate a few simple and inexpensive tools associated with the cloistered world of machinists. One such tool is the 1-2-3 block that I’ve found many uses for in woodworking.

These blocks of metal, sold in pairs, are named after their dimensions, one inch by two inches by three inches (they also come in larger sizes such as 2-4-6). Mine have both threaded and un-threaded holes allowing you to attach and pass through bolts. You can bolt them together square or at an angle. They have a million applications:

To see if a tool is square.

To clamp pieces of wood together to guarantee squareness when gluing.

To attach a machinist’s dial (a another inexpensive tool that will get its own post).

For woodworking, a cheap set from Amazon will work fine. I assume machinists will want to seek out higher quality 1-2-3 blocks. They make a great, if heavy, stocking stuffer for the precision impaired members of your household . . .

Saturday Tweets: Crab Apples, Climate Change and a Bear Parade

The Coolest How-To Video Ever?

Even if you’ll never make your own bespoke cutting board it’s fun to watch Scott Lewis make one while simultaneously crafting one of the best shot how-to videos I’ve ever seen.

A Spidery Christmas

Ukrainian Christmas ornament. Image: Wikipedia

Monday’s spider post prompted Root Simple pal and patron Michael W. to tip me off to a the unlikely Ukrainian combination of spiders and Christmas. In an article in the Ukrainian Weekly Orysia Paszczak Tracz explains,

The spider-web-covered “yalynka” (Christmas tree) is now a standard Ukrainian Christmas story. It comes in many versions, and has appeared in a number of contemporary children’s books. Basically, a poor family has nothing with which to decorate their yalynka and, hearing this, a spider overnight spins its web all over the tree, making the spiderweb sparkle and glitter in the morning sunlight. This explains the tradition of tinsel on the Christmas tree.

The various embellishments of the story depend upon the teller and the tale. Another version has the Holy Family hiding in a cave during their flight to Egypt. The benevolent spiders spin webs and cover the whole entrance to the cave. When Herod’s soldiers pass by, they do not bother searching the cave, because obviously it has not been disturbed in a long time – and the Holy Family is safe.

Now, a few things need to be clarified. First of all, the custom of the Christmas tree arrived in Ukraine from Germany in the 19th century. It became a supplement to the Ukrainian “didukh,” the sheaf of wheat and other best grains, which symbolizes Ukrainian Christmas. The spirits of the ancestors come into the home in the didukh for the holy days. They had lived in the fields in the grain helping the bountiful harvest. The didukh is symbolic, the yalynka is decorative.

Here’s what a didukh looks like:

Image: Wikipedia

Being both a fan of spiders and wheat I can only hope that Ukrainian Christmas traditions will make their way west.

Spider Bite!

My sincerest apologies for beginning your week with a picture of two festering arachnid bites, but that’s what Mondays are for.

These particular arachnid bites belong to UCSD alumni pal Professor Nic, who is visiting us from Canada, the greatest of nations. The bites sent him to the very same Kaiser emergency room that saved Kelly’s life last year. Unfortunately, modern medicine lacks any kind of test that would reveal the scientific name of the perpetrator.

Kelly and I immediately pinned the blame on the infamous Brown Recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa). But, according to the LA County Natural History Museum’s extraordinarily useful book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, the Los Angeles basin has no brown recluses in residence. According to that same book, the most likely perp is the Long-legged Sac spider (Cheiracanthium species).

When disturbed they draw the pair of forelegs back and in, forming a cage around the body . . . These spiders have relatively strong, long fangs and have been known to bite humans, causing a wound that is painful and slow to heal.

Professor Nic captured a photo, in his Corian® bejeweled Airbnb, of the likely perp when he got back from the ER and it looks exactly like the Long-legged Sac spider in the NHM book. Don’t worry, he later released it to the hipster wilds of Echo Park.

Unlike the Brown Recluse, Long-legged sac spiders employ reputation management consultants to keep their nefarious activities out of the news. They live in the corners of rooms and even, according to the NHM book, take up residence in household appliances. So dust out that Vitamix periodically!

Lest we fall into a spider hating hole, allow me to close with some of my own, unpaid spider reputation management. I believe that we should give our our children plush, stuffed spider toys for Christmas instead of teddy bears to instill in them a love of all things Araneae. Spiders are a vital part of the web of life (pun intended) . We should cast off our fear of them and respect the work they do in keeping down the population of other insects. In Southern California the only spider to treat with caution and respect is the Western Black Widow (Latrodectus hesperus). While a spider bite from a Long-legged Sac spider is painful, it’s not going to cause serious consequences.