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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Honey, Today I fixed the Ironing Board




Today I took my wife's broken ironing board over to the studio to fix it.

It's one of those cheap noisy sliding-metal contraptions made of super thin steel, less solid than a McCain campaign button.

It had come apart into three pieces - how do I fix this? . . .

I must have some nuts and bolts the right size. I'll just file or ram out the old rivets, and put bolts back in their place. I'd better be fast . . . Jessica's coming over to talk about using the kiln. Fix it fast, put the stuff away, and then it'll be time for her visit.

My tools are a mess, ever since my move from River Street nearly two years ago, just one of those things I never got around to re-organizing. So I looked, and of course I have hundreds of pounds of hardware lying about in jars and boxes, but not one sliver of metal that could help me out. Unbelievable! How did I let this happen? The pile on the floor looked like a hundred garage sales . . . but not one nut or bolt that can help with the job at hand.

Screws and useless hardware all over the place.

I'll punch out the old rivets with a screwdriver and hammer. . . but they are of hard steel, . . . and my pliers can't get into them. If I pound them out, I'll rip the patient to shreds. Better get out the grinder . . . careful . . . this is one sick ironing board.

So . .  . I impaled the patient's leg to a block of wood with a bunch of bent-over nails, and set to work with a horsepower-and-a-half spinning nine inches of a murderous electric grinding wheel just to show those rivets who was boss.

Suddenly an idea hit me, about fractals.

Fractals are number sets, One of their attributes is that these sets of numbers may be calculated infinitely, in waves of iterative calculation that produce results that show self-similarity at every scale. A little piece resembles the whole.

A seashore rock on the Maine coast, is as jagged as the piece of rocky point where it was picked up, which is just as jagged as the whole Maine coastline. Self-similarity.

Suddenly I notice I am shivering. I've been in such a hurry to fix this damn ironing board, that I forgot to put the heat on. I flip the thermostat to sixty, and set some teawater to boil.

An idea floats along . . . not a complete idea. It hits me that my dream work relies upon the same equation . . . . A pile of 'facts' is something that I subject to a some sort of mathematical process. Dreams are like fractal data sets. The closest analogy I can come up with is fussing with the gain on an oscilloscope, or watching the body of a dead bird rot to a skeletal wraith, sped up, in a hundred frames of film.

Maybe you'll recognize the thought I had. Here it is. And I don't lay claim to it at all . . . it must be everywhere by now.

It answers this question: " What is the fractal derivative of an xth-dimensional set?

And this one as well: What is the fractal integral of all the information that could exist [could is the operative word] regarding an n-th dimensional set?

Suddenly a flash. I'll weld it!

I got out my little stick welder. Usually mention of welding steel would have given me a woodie, seriously, welding is just about the only things that rivals sex. But today this ironing board was really stressing me out, and my potency as a welder did not seem to be bearing at all on the problem at hand.

Testosterone is just one kind of stress. A ten-dollar ironing board had devoured most of my morning.

I realized it would take the skill of a neurosurgeon, or the luck of a mule, to make a weld work on this crap steel . . . but I decided to try anyway.

First that cup of tea. Some sun salutes . . . I'm hungry!

No eating until work is done. I'll finish my yoga, then work. Ami made me some 'peposo' . . . . the same dish that Brunelleschi prepared for his Florentine cathedral workers, a beef shank cooked all night in a closed pot with half pound of pepper and a bottle of Chianti. My mouth watered.

What a mess! Filings all over the place. Then suddenly, I knocked my space heater over, into a water pitcher which I'd brought to cool the thin steel so I didn't melt everything. . . . the appliance pitched into a pool of water on the floor and expired. The pitcher was a pile of wet shards.

A casualty. The Goddess always claims her share of the picnic.

When things get really desperate the thing to do is focus on the end of the day, in front of the fire, with a nice friendly dog wagging his tail.

When I'm done fixing this inanimate piece of garbage I'll put away the tools,  mop the floor, sweep up the bits of broken ironing board hardware and smashed pitcher . . . gather up the hammer, grinder, grinder wheel, four screwdrivers, sheet metal pliers, Vise-Grips, Welder, Welding goggles, gloves, an endless piles of crap to do a really simple job!

Then I'll make a cup of tea for Jesse.

They say a craftsman's skill is measured by the number of tools he does not require to do a job. The fewer tools, the better. When throwing pots, I use just my fingers. When I hand-build, I employ a small dull knife. Sometimes I'll break out a small stick of some kind, but I prefer my hands, my fingers, the flaps of skin between them is great for making the lips on round pots. There's a part of the body that fits into almost any nook of a well-made pot.

I'm not French, and I don't really care if I ever excel at fixing appliances. I have yet to graduate and present my master with my metal-worker's 'chef-d'oeuvre'. Most masterpieces, using the traditional definition, are useless. By this measure, I'm not a craftsman at all.

I'm just trying to do a job.

The sun was high, and I stared straight into it for three minutes. Ami's mother advises that I do the yoga of staring into the sun. Ami says 'don't do it, it'll wreck your eyes. It feels good, and for at least an hour I'm not far-sighted at all.

Welding this crap sheet metal is a little like using a candle to join two snowflakes made of butter. Not a gutsy piece of honest steel anywhere.

Fortunately my studio was still really cold. That might help.

Two ways to go about it . . . super low amperage . . . or . . . a micro-burst of superheat. I'll catch the butterfly's wings with a laser tweezer!

Tools all over the floor. . .  I clamped the welder negative and gave it a short burst at the highest amperage that my machine had. . . . not what you're supposed to do . . . but I've learned lots of juice for a short burst is like welding two leaves of fine ice to one another, by kissing them.

Holy shit . . it worked.

Then I noticed I hadn't put the bracket back in the track so the damn thing could slide open . . . .This ironing board had it's leg held on by a tendon, but no knee!

Hours later and this we're still in the emergency room. "Calling Dr. Potter, calling Dr. Potter."

Just cut the crap and fix it. "Calling Dr. House!, calling Dr. House." I realized that his first, second, and third diagnoses are always wrong. It's a device, for showing off medical knowledge to those that have no medical knowledge, so that they think they need the advice themselves.

It increases aggregate demand from the hypochondriac customer base.

I disassembled the catch mechanism to get the runners back in behind the track. Then an annoying little spring jumped out and rolled away . . . followed by a small plate of hardened steel which flipped into my pile of rubbish. Oh God help me!

What were those? How had the manufacturer ever assembled this thing in the first place? Pay attention Dr. Potter! Huffing like a brontosaurus, I got onto my belly to look for the spring.

More tools. . . . bend this, bend that . . . and lo. . . fixed!

The program swept into effect. I swept up bits of broken ironing board hardware, gathered hammer, grinder, grinder wheel, four screwdrivers, sheet metal pliers, et cetera and put them back into my box.

A fire-bucket of hot water dumped into mop pail on casters. Mop. Swish swish.

Information is the derivative of reality. And reality is the integral of information. It can be no other way. The mycelium devours a stump and leaves a husk of rot, a Sierpinski solid if you like, or the Maine Coast with no Maine at all, no mass, but infinite area, such that a mere sneeze dislodges a Milky Way of spores. What fungus of information gathering sub-life forms devours me?

The mind reproduces in one direction, and then re-inoculates in another. All conscious beings pass fruit, male and female both.

I mopped up the maggots of filings. I don't want those in my clay, at least not a lot. Leave a bit of something in every thing, so that each thing has at least some bit of more than one thing left in it. That's Hermes on steroids! I mean it is possible to make a nice pot with just pure porcelain. But it will be very boring.

The phone rings. Jessie's at the front door. I walk down the long corridor. .. what a tunnel this is! I half enjoy it. I feel like the giant moving to the front of his cave, to accept an offering from the Maya.

I know! I'll meditate on a pile of sand for as long as it takes to fuse silica into a crystal skull!

Jesse's a young mom, with a nine-week old baby, teaching clay over at University of New Haven. Her students will be making copies of natural forms, perhaps conch shells, perhaps skulls.

She has a lovely smile. She remembers Ami. Her husband Joe is a painter. She likes my kiln. She left, all smiles.

Bones! The peposo. My lunch!

I devoured that shank. To know a thing you must devour it, and then it exists not. But once you know a thing, that's when it lives.

Now I have the bone. which I'll burn to make bone ash, which will go into my Shino glaze. . . and when I look at my finished vessels, even though they will be fired near the temperature of the sun, I'll know there's still some flavor of pepper still in them.

No pots today. At least I fixed the ironing board.

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