Fogbrain Battle Five: Saturday Sunday Slugfest

It’s been an eventful weekend, starting with Saturday as a “exploration” day that began with a field trip to a restaurant supply store and ended with a new personal mission. Sunday was more of a catch-up day, and I got to practice the “mental ritual” of clearing my mind once more.

Saturday

I woke up around 10AM, having gone to sleep rather late the night before because I was excited by my new plan to turn my living room into a cafe. I’d start by (1) getting rid of my cat-destroyed couch and sofa, and then replacing the 25-yo carpet with engineered hardwood.

I spent quite a bit of time researching cafe tables, trying to figure out how much it would cost to acquire a few of the ones like they have at my local Starbucks. I like them because they are compact and have thick wooden tops. And of course, they have very stable bases: a necessity for drama-free laptop use!

Restaurant Supply Adventure

Restaurant Supply in Manchester After Googling for a couple of hours, I found that a primary source for cafe-style tables are restaurant supply stores. The bases, made of cast iron, are sold directly to the restaurant supply businesses by the manufacturer.

I’d never had luck finding a restaurant supply store in Nashua, but it turned out that nearby Manchester had one and it was open to the public. I drove up and talked to the guy there, and the store itself was wonderful. I said as much, and the guy was somewhat amused by my reaction. I found that table bases are actually quite affordable, which I hadn’t expected given the super-expensive bistro models that I saw on consumer-oriented sites. Business-to-business for the win! The simple bases ranged from around $30 for a four-legged pedestal to $70 for one with a larger round base, which is the one I purchased. It came in pieces that were easy to assemble, held rigid by a long bolt that holds the column in tension for excellent stability.

I just need a tabletop now. The restaurant store had faux wood melamine particleboard tops for $20 a pop, printed with different patterns on either side. I am really thinking I want something made of wood. An affordable pre-manufactured approach would be to buy a 6×2 foot “butcher block workbench top” from Sears for around $120, then saw it into 3 sections. That would give me a $40 price-tag per 24×24 top, with a decent thickness of 1.5 inches. I’d get three tabletops out of one butcher block top. There is an 8-foot model too, if I wanted to make a larger table out of the last one; the round pedestal is stable for a top up to 36″ wide. Alternatively, IKEA carries inexpensive butcher block countertops. I could also conceivably make my own out of lumber and glue. For that, though, I would need a joiner, a planer, and a miter saw, and a big pile of money + a garage or workshop space and THEN learn how to use it all…so that rules THAT out. I need to visit the local lumber yards and find out where I can find places where I can do the essential woodwork, or maybe find a carpenter who can help me size things down and deliver. Or, possibly join the local hackerspace, Make-It Labs for $50/month and use their workshop tools.

Here’s the problem: I have no way of sawing OR transporting a 6 foot butcher block or countertop of that size, so I would have to find someone to help me with both chores.

I’ll have to look for wood shops and lumber services. There’s a reclaimed lumber yard called Bingham Lumber in nearby Brookline, New Hampshire, and they may have both the supply and the means to shape it. To lubricate the thought processes, I took another trip out to Home Depot to just wander the aisles and see what kind of stuff they had, particularly in tiling (perhaps for the kitchen or bathroom). I visited their lumber section to see what they had they had (perhaps for making my own butcher block tops) and what was available in countertops (nothing good).

Musical Obsessions

For the rest of the day, I indulged in media consumption. I stumbled upon NPR’s music tumblr (I know, NPR has a tumblr? what?) and was consumed with dance music enthusiasm for the disco remix of a popular song called “Change Your Mind”, all because the tumblr said, “It’s Friday, and you should be dancing”, which struck a chord with me even though it was Saturday. Then, I listened to a selection of segments in my NPR playlist from The Ted Radio Hour, which is really great background audio for doing household chores. As I listened, I cut-up a whole bunch of cardboard boxes to recycle and got a bunch of crap out of my house, which always feels good.

As I was signing up for a SoundCloud account to explore music (why not, right?), I was reminded that I didn’t know how last season’s talent competition The X-Factor had turned out. There were two contestants that had made an impression: the so-much-in-love dorky couple Alex & Sierra with their wonderful and surprisingly reworking of Britney Spear’s Toxic (original), and 54-yo grandmother Lillie McCloud’s rendition of Alabaster Box (info by gospel singer [Cece Winans]. Did either of them win? And thus I got sucked into the vortex that is YouTube for the next few hours.

Then, I slept.

OBSERVATION: Today was the first day in quite some time that I unapologetically let my curiosity run flat-out, combining road trips with research visits to various locations. It’s also the first time in a while that I’ve had such a strong vision of something I want: a cafe-style living room that will serve as the focal point for MANY future dreams. Not only would it be interesting, but I would gain a larger workspace when I needed it (just move the tables and chairs), provide a meeting place for social gatherings, serve as an impromptu curry restaurant when I feel like making a LOT of curry, and present more usable wall space to display my favorite things as a gallery / informal museum. IT WOULD BE AMAZING.

Sunday

Woke up around 1PM, having forgotten to set the alarm. I am very dehydrated, as I haven’t done the dishes in a few days, still clogged with storage ware being processed basket load by basket load, and it’s been hard to refill the Britta filter with all this junk in the way. I now have too much disposable plastic storage ware to deal with. I’m going to have to start giving food away or recycle it.

I made up a card with some todos, which read:

  • Cat Litter
  • Report Design Pass Two
  • Blog Post

This is today’s big three. The middle one is the big unknown, and I’m feeling the most resistance to it. Hopefully it’s because I’m dehydrated, which I’m going to start fixing now that the Britta filter has refilled with water and I have 16oz of hot Earl Grey (Well, actually Lady Gray, which is a little lighter and citrusy) to get me going.

Track Saw Obsession

Cafe Table Test I continued to research my cafe living room concept, and spent quite a bit of time looking at floor options and tooling. To do the floors, I would need to do a lot of cross-cutting wood to size, and this got me looking again at track saw systems. A track saw, if you’re not familiar with the idea, is a portable circular saw that slides along a rigid track. Because the track is straight, your cuts are straight too, and it holds what you’re cutting captive for additional safety.

There are two hot systems, Eurekazone’s EZ Track Power One System from carpenter/inventor Dino with the German Festool TS 55 REQ track saw. I really like the Eurekazone tracksaw and support table design, but you need to have a circular saw to begin with, and I don’t have one. By comparison, getting into Festool track saws means buying the TS-55-REQ saw, which is a highly refined tool that will flush-cut, miter, and cut-to-depth accurately on the included 55″ track. I’m looking at about the same amount of money, interestingly enough, for either Eurekazone saw+table or the TS-55 + Multi Function Table (MFT) package…a bit over a thousand bucks, which I could conceivably justify if installing the flooring myself saves me labor cost when installing the hardwood (estimated cost of $2/ft2 for 500ft2). As much as I want to support the Eurekazone product, the Festool saw (particularly with its fancy dust collection system and break-down portability) is very sexy. Apparently Eurekazone sells a universal bridge for their cool table; perhaps it is possible to use both. If I had a bigger workspace with permanent sawdust collection, the Eurekazone would be a no-brainer. However, for portable dust collection and minimal setup without the need for sawhorses, the Festool is looking better. The starting price is fairly close: Starting with the 54″ track set with Eurekazone at $180, I’d have to add their modified Makita circular saw for $320, which gets me up to $500. The Festool TR-55-REQ tracksaw, with included track and some accessories, costs $595. Fortunately, I don’t need to buy anything right away, so I can just sit on this for a while.

It’s 4PM now, and I’ve gotten the cat litter and kitchen handled. I’ve also repacked the cable modem I must return to Comcast, as I have purchased the well-regarded Motorola Surfboard SB6151 for $70. This which will pay for itself in 8 months because Comcast charges a whopping $8/month to rent their own equipment. I then swept the basement a bit, because the cats have been naughty down there. It was gross.

Sunday Evening Work

I spent the past hour writing up this blog post, and it’s now 5PM. I’m going to write the rest of it later. Now, it’s time to move to the main event: doing some design work.

OBSERVATION: I’m about to transition from “EXPLORE/LEARN/SHARE” mode to “BUILD/WORK” mode, and I’m wondering what kind of difficulty will be involved. Calling forth the “mental ritual” and “memory ritual” hasn’t worked so well earlier in the week by themselves. Last time, I had to add (1) gather the stuff first, unthinkingly like a robot so I wouldn’t get distracted and (2) invoke “15 minutes first, then I can give up and do something else” escape hatch. The mental ritual of “clearing my mind” seems inconsistent; I might need to follow the advice of recent commenter Cricket regarding meditation to improve my process. For now, though, I will set a timer and apply 15 minutes to gathering, then starting the work.

It’s now 5:30PM. GO.

6:30PM. Got started after 30 minutes, then fell into researching Window Farms and Vertical Gardening. GO AGAIN.

It’s 815PM. Got stalled with instant messages, and then I decided to go out and buy new 120V halogen bulbs for the burned-out lamp on my desk so I could get enough light to see. After grabbing the bulbs minute before the store closed, I was sidetracked again by the whole cafe living room idea, and got sidetracked talking to my cousin about it. I shut down Instant Messaging…duh! And now it’s 8:45PM

Clearing the mind might help…I want to do a MENTAL DIVE into the depths of productive, focused thinking. Maybe I need a mantra? I came up with this:

LISTEN FOR THE SILENCE
FROM THE SILENCE ASK THE QUESTION
WHEN THE TIME OF QUIET HAS COME TO ITS END
STEP LIGHTLY ACROSS THE CALM TO
“WHAT IS THE QUESTION”

The idea was to just slow down the brain enough and let the “question” come from the work that was in front of me. There were a lot of places to start, but I had to pick one. Unbelievably, it actually worked! If there’s anything it’s good at, it’s listening to my own mind and seeing what’s going on. Listening for the silence seemed to trigger the rest of my thoughts to hush to see what would happen. It was the tension of this anticipation, lightly held in my mind, that I hoped would keep me from falling asleep as I relaxed.

I’ll have to try this again tomorrow. Anyway, I worked for 4.25 hours straight, got the report format fixed up in a way that isn’t terrible, and it’s now 1:15AM. I’m winding down, winding down, chatting with my sister on Facebook about Swedish-Finnish picture books about Moomins, and then showering.

It’s 3:00AM now, later than I wanted, but I wanted to get this log down. It’s going to be a hectic week, with many external responsibilities and chores to take care of. Time to shut down! I’m already feeling a little overwhelmed by what I have to do tomorrow, feeling almost a bit TRAPPED by circumstance, but we’ll see how it goes.