Behold the Sector

Over the past year I’ve fallen down a traditional furniture design rabbit hole. In the course of this study I discovered a measuring and calculation tool that went out of use until a recent revival: the sector.

Before the 19th century cabinetmakers worked with proportions rather than measurements. When laying out dovetails for a drawer, for instance, rather than using a ruler a traditional cabinetmaker would use a sector and dividers to come up with the spacing. You can figure out this spacing by trial and error but a sector speeds along the process.

To use a sector to divide a line you open the sector up to the length of the line. Then you hold up a divider to the scale etched on the side of the sector to the number you want to divide your original line into. Then you step out the divider on the workplace.

In addition to carpentry the sector was used in navigation, surveying and gunnery. With your handy sector you can also solve multiplication and trigonometry problems. The sector’s invention is attributed to either Galileo Galilei and/or Thomas Hood sometime in the 16th century.

If you’re a teacher or a parent looking for a geometry lesson to do in quarantine Jim Toplin has a free paper sector plan you can download and assemble. I use this paper sector for laying out dovetails. You can also turn a folding ruler into a sector.

With the rising tyranny of inches and feet the sector went out of use in the 19th century. But recently, freaks like me have revived its use and you can buy one for the first time in over a hundred years.

I’ve found thinking in terms of proportions rather than inches revelatory and liberating. And geometry lessons based in practice stick with you much better than those distantly remembered hours of junior high math.

For more information on sectors see The Sector: it’s History, Scales and Uses

Saturday Linkages: Gaslighting the Quarantine Cats

40 percent of Americans have taken “extremely unsafe” measures to sanitize their food and kitchens

3 Reasons Your Chicken May Display Red Legs

Time to Get Blueberries in Your Freezer?

Strawberry Feijoa Jam

Your wedding’s been cancelled by the coronavirus lockdown? Good

Inside NextDoor’s Karen problem

What It’s Like to Get Doxed for Taking a Bike Ride

Writer Lane Moore condensed my mood in a Tweet,

is anyone else feeling gaslit all the time lately? I’m wearing my mask everywhere I go, I don’t touch it, I don’t pull it down, I go out once every few weeks for supplies only. and then I see folks not wearing masks at all, throwing big house parties, and it makes me feel insane . . .

Pretty much every second during this pandemic I feel like I’m the only one who heard scientists tell us what we needed to do and thought “This sucks, but I’ll do it.” and everyone around me is like “haha you believed that? We’re on vacay But uh people are actually dying so wtf

This moment holds possibilities for change we have never before experienced

Icon Maker: The Spiritual Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky

Lastly, some comic relief

Allegedly Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder Not Rat Proof

I set up our CritterCam last night to see who or what was eating all the bird seed. Turns out it was LA’s enterprising city councilmen! Just kidding. It was rats.

This discovery caps off a busy week for urban wildlife in our backyard. A young coyote visited last week and, last night, our indoor cats got in a full on cat fight on either side of a glass door with a visiting outdoor cat.

Our new bird (rat?) feeder has a lever that closes when a heavy animal steps on it. This is supposed to deter squirrels. As you can see from the photos, rats easily hacked their way around this problem by shimmying between the lever and the food. Perhaps I can just weigh down the levers at night but I have confidence our rats will find a workaround. You have to admire their pole dancing abilities and the futility of most human efforts to stop our rodent companions.

I have taken steps elsewhere in the yard to reduce rats. The chicken feed gets locked up at night (the critter cam showed the rats are active between 11pm and 4am) and I try, not always successfully, to keep things neat.

Back in the 90s I worked at a mouse infested TV station. We had a scale model of a set that was being built for a talk show. One of my coworkers had the bright idea to put a camera on the little set and smear it with dabs of peanut butter. Hilarity ensued when we reviewed the tape the next day. Maybe, instead of feeding the birds, I should start an LA Rats Instagram.

The Known Unknown

I violated curfew to get this shot of a completely empty Sunset Blvd. last week.

For me, this period we’re in has the qualities of a kind of never ending lent, a period of solitary reflection, a time to face fears, anxieties and consider what’s really important in this life. Such periods are hard, painful and full of uncertainty. That said, I’m thankful that, for me, there isn’t the added physical danger of having to work as say a nurse or grocery store clerk.

Images on TV or the interwebs of the “before time” when we could all gather in groups safely seem surreal, like a long lost memory. Of course, people have been gathering in large groups in the past week for what I consider to be a worthwhile cause. But I live with someone who is likely vulnerable to Covid and who takes care of a relative who is definitely vulnerable and I can’t risk transmitting the virus.

While the protests have been going on politicians of both parties have been concocting opening plans or have long since decided to just sacrifice our elders. These plans have nothing to do with any scientific understanding of the virus. They feel like an attempt to feign certainty during what is a very uncertain situation. The fact is that we’re only five months into a virus whose transmission pathways are not known. It may be that large groups outdoors with partial mask use isn’t much of a risk. We’ll find out in two weeks. It may also be that Covid is seasonal and we’ll all have to go into another quarantine in the fall. Again, we just don’t know.

I have a feeling that many people are reluctant to leave quarantine despite the scenes of large gatherings we see in the media. I was on a few Zoom calls with people of different age groups this weekend. I asked if people were out and about. The answer was, universally, no.

As for life here at the urban homestead, we get avocados and eggs from our yard but we get most of our food from our local Vons via their pickup service. You do your order with an app and head to their parking lot when the order is filled and they load the groceries into your car. It’s not perfect but it works. I made one trip to a local lumber yard to get some wood for some bookshelves I’m making for Kelly’s office. I called in the order and they loaded the wood directly on top of my car with a forklift. I hope these pickup methods are better for employees since they don’t have to interact with customers as much and risk getting the virus. But, like everything else, I’m not sure.

One thing I do know is that I have many demons to banish this week–too much looking at the news and Twitter and too much laying about on the couch. Things are more uncertain than they’ve ever been in my lifetime and that’s just the way it’s going to be for a long time.

Saturday Linkages: Hornet-19

My neighbor Jennie just made doughnuts and came door to door with them.

Gardens Have Pulled America Out of Some of Its Darkest Times. We Need Another Revival

Jardines de Laribal, Parque Montjuïc, Barcelona

Beekeeping with Asian hornets in France

Crops from U.S. food supply chains will never look nor taste the same Again

Bougie McPrepper

What Does the White House’s Underground Bunker Look Like? Answer: like a mid-90s office

Yes, there’s a bot that tweets about aircraft flying in circles over Los Angeles

Fresh Hell

I listen to this when I need to mellow out