Reduce, Reuse Recycle summary December 2017 – January 2018

(Sounds nicer than saying dumpster diving eh?)

We can learn a lot about a society just from looking what we throw away (see Garbology).

When I lived in Berisso it was really odd to see on the curb something that worked or was fixable.

Here in La Plata and without even trying I stumble upon stuff that is just a little bit broken if not working (albeit a tad old).

This last two months among other things I picked up with my bike basket:

  • A vacuum cleaner, complete with hoses. Only needed a carbon brush replacement.
  • Home audio amplifier. The cd tray is stuck but we feed it from the line in. A bit heavy but very nice sound.
  • Mantle top fan. Works fine as a fan but the pivoting mechanism is acting up. Just needed a thorough cleaning.
  • Leather briefcase. Sold in less than a day as a theater prop.
  • Wooden wine rack. Works fine for other beverages too.

This is not exactly dumpster diving but I also helped the widow of a neighbor silent key to clean up his shop.
Out of the deal I got:

  • Two 100Mbps rackable switches. They work but at that speed I only want them for the chassis and supplies
  • An antique lamp. Already restoring it.
  • A Commodore 1541 dirve and some original CompuServe disks. On their way to a museum.
  • A very old (when telegraphs were the norm) glass insulator and threaded pole made of hardwood. Has the right volume to make a shot glass.
  • A modern medium voltage insulator. It’s quite heavy but in nice condition. I’ll probably make a lamp out of it.
  • Lots of heatsinks and coolers.
  • Old cans of candy and medicines. They don’t have a high monetary value but are collectible and can be traded for something else.

Tooling up

Since I moved back to my childhood neighborhood I reconnected with a lot of people that were part of my developing years and imprinted many memories that I still recall fondly to this day.

One of them is a very nice old man, a bit younger than what my grandfather would be were he be still alive. From time to time I help him with the daily errands and every other week we share a simple lunch. He used to run a hardware store that marveled me every time I went (when I was a child I could be impressed with simple things. Thankfully, now I still do).

Nowadays the store is run by his sons. He comes anyways, sits on a corner drinking mate and welcomes the patrons. Besides knowing almost everyone around he’s also versed in almost any trade I can think of and that skill is quite useful, as many times people come without knowing what they need or how to fix something.

I visited him for new year’s eve and between a glass of wine he said come to the shop once the holiday craze fades, I have something for you.

A couple of days later I go to the store and without a word he carries me to the back into a room I never visited before.

This are all the returned items that we can not send for repair. Some customers are worth keeping and so we just give them a new machine instead of washing our hands because the manufacturer would not take them. Pick what you want, we’ll talk business later .

I got this out of the deal at a very discounted price:

  • A combo tig/stick welder plus plasma cutting with all the standard accessories and an auto darkening mask.
  • A drill press.
  • A miter saw.
  • Small air compressor.

Besides that he sold me safety gear, consumables and a couple of other things like magnetic squares and pressure clamps, air hoses with quick disconnects, a paint gun and a spraying one.

You don’t look at a gifted horse in the mouth but given that these were rejects I had to.

The welder was only banged a couple of times on one side and had some loose connectors. After fixing that it worked flawlessly. It came with all the torches, water tramp and pressure regulator and spares.

The compressor is way loud and one of the connections between the reservoir tanks and the regulator has a leak, I can see oil (or moisture?) bubbling when it’s running. It’s not a big deal and while the fix is easy it involves fumbling with very delicate tubing and I know from experience that a bit too much of torque can easily wreck them. Also it’s not very ergonomic, the handle has sharp edges and if I’m supposed to use it to move it around I have to crouch. As it is not very heavy I just lift it whenever I need to move.

The drill had less than the barely minimum grease on the table lift column (none) but surprisingly the chuck turned smoothly after loosening the belts. However the quill felt strange, like it was scratching something inside, and also the spring was harder than I’d like to. To dismantle it only needed a single screw to be removed and when it was out I swept the innards with a cloth and it came back with what looked like metal (or very thick paint) flakes. After making sure that none of that remained I applied a very generous amount of grease and put it back together.

Runs quite fine but the table has a bit of flex, nothing that a brace wouldn’t fix.

I don’t know what’s wrong with the miter saw. The stock abrasive disk is very soft and flexes, so making square cuts is a difficult task, and it really needs to be bolted on something hard, otherwise the frame tends to distort when applying pressure to the vise (just the necessary to keep things in place, seems like a production defect).

All of this came just in time, as I’m doing a couple of renovations on my parent’s house. (The neighbors are not exactly thrilled, as all of these tools make quite a bit of noise).

Cultural differences

Sunday was a very nice day among friends and partners of our neighborhood.

Instead of finishing a draft post about that I’m sad. I spent most of this Monday listening to our representatives going around circles instead of voting, while some of my friends were treated like terrorists, being searched by masked officers at gun point, others punched and kicked.

I listened to the live stream for about ten hours before the sleep took over. Most of the ‘normal’ people I met yesterday chose to ignore this and watch crap tv. Meanwhile in Japan they have entertainment shows like Supreme Skills where they pit engineers and craftsmen to see which one is able to complete very demanding projects. Some of them are very light on the details but nonetheless the content is still better than other productions and showcases a complete different scale of values.

On weekends most of us choose to numb our minds with meaningless stuff. Others enlighten themselves.

No wonder things go downhill.

Birthday

This 30th birthday is way better than the last one.

Near the end, when we were almost finishing packing up a police car appeared. They said someone made a complaint about noises and that we should turn it down.

By then, after a very loud party on the street, there was just a small powered speaker, so we just unplugged it. They walked away, tail between their legs, but before that took all my personal data just in case.

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Groundhog Day

Somehow on Wednesdays, it seems that I never arrive home from work before 20.30 – 21 no matter how early I get out.

Last week I reached Retiro at around 17, hoped into a bus that was about to depart and tried to make myself comfortable in a not so soft seat. After crossing most of the city swift as it did so few times we enter into the highway. A couple of minutes later we reach a complete halt. There was a big accident and only one lane carried traffic.

Besides the common spectacle of clowns riding alone on big cars there was the musical companion of raging claxons. I was a bit pissed but there wasn’t much to do about that, so I tried to rest.

Yesterday was mostly the same, except that the queue at the bus stop was way longer than usual.
Overhearing some conversations I learned that they were going to a Coldplay show in La Plata. What a great timing.

After seeing two buses depart I get to board one but there were no seats available. I hopped inside even if that was a rip off, as the next bus would take quite a bit to arrive.

Despite being many laws and norms that forbid having standing passengers for journeys as large as this one this is actually a common situation for most of the day. The driver was generous this time and only allowed ten of us to travel standing.

After a while I got a headache and using my backpack as a pillow I rested on the floor. There was a group of young girls wearing a lot of makeup and leather in a fashion that screamed “rich princess trying to look bad” that gazed at me with an expression that conveyed something along the lines of “ugh, we have to share the ride with that hobo”. But after a while when they realized that this was going to take more time than they expected they joined me at the floor.

The road was completed stuck. Besides the rush of people going back from work there was the storm of fans.

As Buck Dharma used to say, time is the essence . So much of it wasted.

Yay.

When I’m say I’m alright

… don’t look in my eyes ’cause you’ll see I’m not alright.

But I’m trying.

About a month and half ago I snapped and couldn’t take it anymore. I sought professional help and got myself a Real Shrink and a Therapist (both extremely good and expensive). And I’m on meds now.

For the most part of the last three to four years what I described as “happy” or “fine” was actually different shades of miserable. I had my moments of truly happiness, but those were really few. And there was always that tiny rainy cloud looming above me.

I had a breakdown like this back in 2015 and I almost wanted to give up and get away from programming (I kinda did, I biked many times to the countryside trying to look for a quiet spot).

This time it’s not so bad on its own but compounded with other things happening in my life (one of the biggest is leaving Berisso) it totally wrecked me. The difference now it’s that I asked for help. I still run away from the civilization to take day long bike rides and reflex but I’m trying to get a grip on the problem and fix myself.

Lately I’ve lost interest in most of what my life is/was centered about (technology, engineering) and that bothers me a lot. Not completely, I have many drafts and toy projects that prove otherwise.

The knack it’s there but the thrill is gone. At least for a while.

As Dave Thomas put it, this is supposed to be fun. And it stopped being such for me, instead of an almost daily stream of marvel it gradually turned into a grind with an occasional touch of enjoyment, and not always at work.

I believe that we are defined by what we do (more than what we think / believe), work being a significant part of that. On that reference frame, this is a very tough situation.

So what now? I’m going to spend all the time I need to get better and take care of myself. I’m taking a bit of time off work and going back to uni for real, coming clean of my schedule to not rush things pretending I’m doing something when I’m not (attending lectures and using slack on the phone is awful). I’m saying no instead of hesitating. I’m not committing to do things just to please someone. I take a break when I feel I need it.

I know this stuff (antidepressants) takes time to make effect and it’s not a silver bullet that somehow will make everything fine overnight but I’m anxious, waiting for something to happen.

On a totally unrelated thing, the quote from the beginning is from a Storm Large song (it can be found here). I really miss her days with The Balls, the energy and vocal range from that era reminds me a lot to Skunk Anansie. But her smooth side of nowadays is gorgeous.

Moving in

It’s been about a month since I left Berisso and moved into La Plata.
I miss a lot that air of simple town, the walks in the forest and the docks. I also miss that sense of security, here I need to lock my bike almost everywhere I go.

The (monetary) cost of living here is way higher but on the other hand I spend about a third of the time traveling to the uni (mostly by bike, even if it’s raining it’s still faster than the bus) and the bus to work and I am closer to my support net and the friends of Futura. I’m a strong believer that the amount time lost commuting is one of our biggest illness as society. For many lines of work it can not (yet?) be avoided. So it seems like a net win to me.

But, in spite of this I’m feeling quite down. Today I went to run a little and stopped at Parque Saavedra to rest before returning.

It’s a nice view nonetheless but not even close to the nights in Los Talas and Isla Paulino.

Doppelgänger

(Not the wonderful album by Curve)

Walking near Plaza Rocha on my way to the bus stop I catch a glimpse of a painting on a building and pause to take a closer look. It’s called “Apollo Parnassius”, masterpiece of a local artist by the moniker of Martín La Spina. The resemblance with myself is uncanny.