How To Clean A Thing


We continue this department’s investigation into the getting-done of things that were left un-done and have no questions in mind for anyone about why they were not already done. We understand. We’ve got stuff to do too that gets in the way of anything being done. There’s probably verb tenses working against us.

How To Clean A Thing

The first most important task to do when cleaning a thing is to ask yourself. Having finished that, the next most important task is to determine: is this a thing which is bigger than you are, which is smaller than you are, or which is about the same size as you? If you don’t like the answer, are you able to alter your size enough to matter? Your relative sizes do affect how the cleaning gets done, and if so, whether it does, and good luck diagramming this sentence.

It is generally easier to clean a thing which is smaller than you. Your greater size allows you to intimidate the thing, by occluding its light or just by overpowering it. Even should matters not come to that, it’s useful to know that you could, if pressed, overpower (say) the pantry shelves or at least eat them. Not every interaction with things should be a matter of domination and submission, but the option helps clarify matters. So should you have to clean a larger thing, try to enlarge yourself, or to shrink the thing, and then proceed as you would with a smaller thing.

With that done, the next most important task is to determine what kind of cleaning the thing needs. For example, does it merely need tidying? Tidying is the best sort of cleaning because it is done by taking a thing and setting it atop another thing. By creating this stack of things, both are tidied. The stacks can themselves be stacked. It is within the Marquis of Cleansbury Rules to tidy your entire house by stacking everything in it on top of everything else. This is why when you visit the house of your tidiest friend the entire first floor is a vast, empty space, decorated with a single futon capable of seating two people uncomfortably and a wall-mounted television that only gets shows about people buying houses in Peru.

I should say, the tidying urge runs strong in my family. I’m not saying that we’re experts. But we are good. Behind my house is a stack of like four love seats, a dining room table, a roll-away dishwasher, 426 linear feet of books, and eighteen potted plants one atop the other in a writhing pillar of photosynthesis. But it’s all stacked, and neat, and won’t tip over as long as the guy wires don’t snap or we don’t get a breeze. If it does, that’s all right. I have my tidying instincts to rely on. I could stack all that into a good enough pile so fast it wouldn’t even use up all my stockpiled podcasts. Yes, I have a pile of unfinished podcasts. It’s only about fourteen inches tall, but you better find that impressive or I’ll come over and glare at you.

But maybe the thing needs a real, proper cleaning. If the thing is smaller than you, great. Pick the thing up and carry it to a riverbank or body of water. A pond, say, or if you need something larger a hyperpond. And now I’m thrown because my spell checker is not objecting to “hyperpond”. I can’t have put that in my dictionary. There’s no way that’s a real word, though, right? Is my spell checker broken? Flurple. Cn’tr. Flxible. No, these things are getting highlighted. This is all very disturbing and I don’t know that I can continue from here. Knwo. Cnotineu. Yeah, it’s just broken about hyperpond. Hyperlake. No, it allows that too. Hyperocean. That too. Apparently my spell checker thinks “hyper” is a legitimate prefix to any body of water. Hyperriver. Hypercreek. Ah! It doesn’t like that one. Hyporiver. No, it doesn’t mind “hyporiver”. Hypocreek gets rejected. I’m sorry to get bothered by this but if you’re not bothered by this, what are you bothered by?

My TextWrangler window showing the paragraph with words like 'hyperpond' in it and not underlined for being suspect misspellings.
The eternal debate: when you discover a happy accident like this, work it into the piece or separate it out into something else? On the one hand, breaking the flow of an essay is a kind of comic path that can feel very tired to the reader. It’s a little stream-of-consciousness and that can read pretty cheap as a joke. On the other hand, it’s delightful to be surprised like that and why not embrace that delight?

I have to conclude that there’s some serious cleaning-up needed on my dictionary. Anyway, uh, for cleaning up your things I don’t know, try working from the top and getting to the bottom and use small, gentle circular motions. That usually does something. Good luck.

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How To Connect To The Hotel Wi-Fi


There is a good deal of interest in these parts about how to get various things done. So this department will provide some explanations of how to handle some common tasks. Why you would do them is your own affair.

How To Connect To The Hotel Wi-Fi

  1. Be at or near a hotel with a computing device capable of interacting by Wi-Fi. This may sound obvious, but you might be surprised at the number of people have come up to us, holding a plastic abacus and insisting they can’t get on the Internet with it. The figure’s less surprising if you discount sarcasm.
  2. Open a web browser on your computer. There’s no sense opening a web browser on your pillow. You don’t want Internet-equipped bedding. It never ends well.
  3. Look through the list of public Wi-Fi networks. It should look something like ‘RestIn’, ‘RestIn_4’, ‘Rest_In_5’, ‘RestIn_26’, ‘Rest_In_26’, and ‘RestIn_27’, ‘Applebees_Guest’, “RestInn_Nonpublic”, “U_SPYING_ICE”, ‘IHOP_STAFF_ONLY’, “Resting6”, and (with the faintest of one bar, flickering in and out of the menu) “Asperience_Guest_Lounge”. Select the one that most nearly matches the name of your hotel (“Rest Inn”) and has the number that looks least threatening to you.
  4. Enter the user id (“guest”) and the password (“restinnguest”). The system will then ask you to accept the terms and conditions of service. Accept the conditions, but refuse the terms, as they include some which were not covered in the reading material and are not on the study sheet, such as the “Bland-Allison Act”.
  5. Go to any web site to test your connection. Wait for the screen to change to a solid color, with one strip of banner ad on the top, the ad that’s supposed to be on the left side of the page running down the middle, and some text sprawled off past the right side of the page where you can’t read it and can’t scroll to it, at which point the computer gives up. This should take about four minutes.
  6. Try one of the other hotel Wi-Fi networks with a less-friendly-looking number until you get the same result.
  7. Try the hotel Wi-Fi network with the weakest signal strength and that finally lets things through and pops up, like, forty Facebook messages even when you aren’t on Facebook somehow. Then the connection dies again.
  8. Turn your computer’s Wi-Fi off and on again and try the first network you used again.
  9. Try the Applebee’s one. What the heck.
  10. Scream into your pillow.
  11. Never, ever, ever go to a hotel ever again.
  12. Try sitting on the corner of the bed with the laptop in your lap, which you don’t really have. But if you cross one leg over and fit it under your knee there’s just enough leg space there to balance the laptop without it getting too hot and without your foot necessarily being put to sleep by the pressure of your knee on top of it.
  13. That’s getting a little better, but maybe if you sit closer to the edge of the bed where the signal is a little bit … different? … somehow and you know the wall is right past you where maybe you could lean into it?
  14. Throw your abacus into the pillow.
  15. DON’T LEAN BACK INTO THE WALL! YOU’LL GET WEDGED BETWEEN THE BED AND THE WALL!
  16. You leaned back, didn’t you? You got yourself wedged between the bed and the wall, didn’t you?
  17. All right. Don’t panic. We’ll sort this out. No, it’s premature to hack your legs off. For one, you haven’t even tried shifting — oh, you’ve gone and wedged yourself in tighter then? All right. No, don’t go crying out for help. The last thing anyone in a hotel wants is cries for help from the next room over. It’s just going to spoil their trip too.
  18. So, better than hacking your own legs off to escape the bed-wall trap is to use your legs’ pre-designed detachment points. They can be reattached later by any reputable auto mechanics or certain advanced kinds of stereo salesmen. To find your detachment points refer to your year of birth, where discernable, and check the manufacturer’s web site for what spots you have to touch and in what order to — oh, right. The web.
  19. I don’t know, did you try the IHOP network?
  20. Have you tried a mobile hotspot? A mobile hotspot is a great way to turn someplace that doesn’t have Internet into someplace that is supposed to have Internet but doesn’t.

In Which A Chair That’s Not Even Mine Gives Me Directions I Can’t Follow


So my love and I were at this other hipster bar where a completely different pinball league meets. It was getting near the end of the night and some of the chairs were turned over and put on the tables. This was under the seat of one. The text that’s got me:

There's nine lines of information about the care and use of a chair, and while I feel like this is all pretty good advice it feels like a lot for a chair.
Instructions for the care and use of a chair. And every word is in all-caps, the better to make sure nobody ever reads it ever.

Chairs should be inspected regularly for loose or missing screws, metal fatigue, cracks, broken welds, loose staples, and general instability.

And now I am so glad these chairs are not mine. I would be all right on loose screws or staples, but detecting metal fatigue? And for that matter missing screws? And how often is regularly? Daily is way too often to inspect a chair for cracks. But every ten years? Probably they don’t mean that infrequently. It’s not like my teeth, which I once kind of accidentally let go for eighteen years between dentist’s visits. I had two small cavities and the ire of my love, who’s needed a lot more dental work. Chair Master Command would want something more often and I couldn’t live up to that kid of pressure.

Well, here’s some mathematically-themed comic strips I looked at recently, and what I saw there.

Your Recommended Oatmeal


I was getting tea at the Quick-Chek convenience store and noticed a sign showing Quaker Oats’s “Recommended” method for preparing instant oatmeal. Their formula, and I’m sorry I didn’t have my camera so I could get this down exactly and be escorted out by the clerks, had three steps: first, put a packet of instant oatmeal powder in the bowl; second, add up to a half cup of hot water into the bowl; and finally, stir. Those with long memories will remember this is one step more than was required to set up the original late-90s Snoopy-helmet-style iMacs.

I see what they’re doing by listing this as just their “recommendation”, though. They imply they are open to other concepts in instant oatmeal preparation. Perhaps they even mean it, but I have doubts. Can I be sure that, if I were to soak my oatmeal with three-fifths of a cup of hot water some alert Quaker Oats representative among the Quick-Chek staff wouldn’t race over and slap the bowl out of my hands, crying, “You mad fool!” and shake her head, mournfully? Of course not. Or if I refused to stir it, trusting instead that the inevitable entropic heat-death of the universe would, someday, eventually make itself felt in a bowl of uniformly mushy, cold oatmeal? Would they take some action against me, especially if it isn’t a 24-hour convenience store? I feel certain they’d never let me get away with skipping out on the bowl. Maybe they’d let me go with not putting the oatmeal powder in, but I bet they’d gossip about me.

So I’m tempted. Maybe someday when I’m just about to leave town for months and they won’t be able to follow me.

How To Draw


Drawing is a wonderful way to express yourself, to force your friends to look at URLs of your art without leaving them free to express their real indifference, and to get pictures of what you really want without having to explain it to an artist. (“It’s Kim Possible’s Mom as Captain Picard’s new helm officer, only she’s a steampunk mermaid dragon Little Pony, and she’s eating spaghetti, in Tron.”) It’s also a beloved activity of childhood, something parents and teachers pass on to kids, along with making paper rings and snowflakes, to show humanity’s dominance to crayons and construction paper. Many of us stop drawing, but here’s how to do it again.

The first decision is whether you want to use pencil and paper, or “media”, or to use computer and drawing tablet, or “media”. The advantages of pencil and paper include cheapness, portability, and the ease with which the pencil will go missing every time you should practice, saving the bother of actually drawing things. Computer methods offer the chance to buy consumer electronics which always feels so good, unlimited undo’s, and 25-cent refills if you bring your own mug, and save you from practice by throwing up “Driver Error: Link token exchange ring to bus”, which sounds like some sort of contract squabble at the Port Authority. Best to give in to their demands unconditionally, as I’m fairly confident they have tire irons.

Continue reading “How To Draw”