The Rat of the Land

I finally got around to setting up my Critter Cam again and, unsurprisingly, it revealed the presence of rats in and around our chicken coop. I lock up the chicken food at night but the coop still seems to be a hot spot for rats. I’ve long had a suspicion that Los Angeles probably has more rats than Chicago and New York but there’s no hard evidence to prove this thoughtstyling of mine.

Unfortunately, it turns out that scientists have a hard time researching urban rodents for a number of reasons. Matt Frye, an IPM Extension Educator based in New York explains in a blog post,

As people who have conducted rodent research, we can tell you that rats are hard to study. They’re secretive, they nest underground, they’re nocturnal, accessing them is difficult — and they’re likely to croak before we can study them. Radio telemetry and Global Positioning System (GPS) rarely work because of interference from buildings and hard surfaces.

At the end of his blog post Frye has a nice collection of research papers on urban wildlife. I highly recommend one of those articles, which was published in Science a few years ago, Evolution of life in urban environments.

Saturday Linkages: Bad Ideas and a Few Good Ones

EPA re-approves key Roundup chemical

Hollyhock House Archive

What happened to that $100 laptop idea?

Goodbye Mars One, The Fake Mission To Mars That Fooled The World

The 10,000-Year Clock Is a Waste of Time

The World’s Most Annoying Man

Car ads are bad for our cities

No Rational System Would Value Tesla at $100 Billion

‘Mindless growth’: Robust scientific case for degrowth is stronger every day

A dry (and warm, in most places) January in California

How Sustainable is a Solar Powered Website?

Bonfire of the Billys

Root Simple’s proposal for a Ikea Billy Stonehenge

We spent this weekend ridding our house of the last vestiges of Ikea, a set of Billy bookshelves in Kelly’s she-shed. As I dragged them to the street I remembered what author and woodworker Christopher Schwartz’s said in The Anarchist’s Design Book that, “it annoys me when I see an IKEA Billy bookshelf in a woodworker’s house.”

Schwartz goes on to explain why,

Yes, you get about 15 linear feet of shelving, plus a carcase that is ridiculously unstable. Only two shelves are fixed. So unless you secure the Billy to the wall (or other Billys), it will rack in short order . . . I say this with experience. When my wife and I bought our first house, we actually drove to Virginia to visit the nearest IKEA and bought two Billy bookcases. I put them together and immediately felt wronged. After a few months I let them do what they do best: fall apart. Then I started building shelves for our home.

I came to the same conclusion he reaches in the intro to his book that, in order to have decent furniture that doesn’t cost an obscene amount of money you have to learn to make it yourself.

Schwartz runs a small publishing company, Lost Art Press, that produces books as beautiful as they are useful. He has pioneered a elegant and non-fussy style, based on the furniture of working people, that is accessible to beginning woodworkers without looking like a clunky junior high woodshop project. He says,

Beautiful, durable and useful furniture is within the grasp of anyone willing to pick up a few tools and learn to use them. It does not require expensive materials or a lifetime of training – just an everyday normal dose of guts.

Millions of people before you – and just like you – built all the furniture in their homes. They might not have left pattern books behind, but they left clues sprinkled through paintings, sketches and the furniture record.

I put our Billys on NextDoor, Freecycle and Craigslist and someone, with less worries of shelf racking, grabbed them. Now when they fall over it won’t be my problem.

Saturday Linkages: It’s Caturday

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Attention US Army: Young Moki would make a fine tank operator. but it won’t be a volunteer gig.

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A kayak made from branches and tarp

FRED episode 2 – a vision of heaven

Unmasking the secret landlords buying up America

Bedouin Lifestyle – Documentary in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Unflipping the Gentrifence

There should be a word for when you’re doing something you know you shouldn’t be doing but you keep going anyways. How about we call that feeling “contemperroneous?” I was all up in the contemperroneous when, back in 2015, I put up a horizontal fence of the sort that’s popular in our overpriced LA neighborhood. Fences of this sort are known as “flipper” fences or gentrifences (as in gentrification). In the midst of building my own gentrifence I knew it was wrong even if it correctly signaled that we live in a pricey 100 year old shack. Kelly even wrote about it in a blog post entitled “Our Hypocricy revealed.”

Here’s a shot of me putting up that abomination:

Those shoes and the smug grin are equally horrid.

This December I finally got around to sending the gentrifence to the Gulag. While I was at it I rebuilt the entrance arbor at the bottom of our stairs. I cribbed both designs, with a few modifications, from the Southern Pine Association’s 1926 sales brochure “Beautifying the home grounds.” This pamphlet is part of the Internet Archive’s Building Technology Heritage Library, an essential resource for anyone interested in historical preservation.

I recycled all of the old gentrifence, but had to buy some more lumber to complete the project. To make the oddly shaped pickets, I used a combo of table saw cuts along with a jig for my jigsaw. Making jigs increases speed and safety.

I’m not entirely happy with the metal handrail but, since I had it already, I didn’t want to let it go to waste. It’s functional and I don’t have to paint it. I got a contemperroneous vibe while reattaching it but you if you don’t make any mistakes you ain’t human.