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All posts in MacGyver

The Missus and I have been discussing the need for some rearranging in the house.

I have been shifting boxes and discovering undiscovered pockets of dust and pollen in our storage shed. However, my allergies aside we decided that some of our rearrangement would require a visit to Ikea.

Ikea is like a trip abroad for me but not just because Ikea in Netanya, Israel looks the same as Ikea in the North of England (Warrington if I remember right). For me the whole Ikea visit is a pleasure.

If you haven’t guessed let me tell you a secret I love flatpack. Not just the concept or the idea of it but the whole process of choosing, buying, getting it home and then assembly. The coffee and muffins at Ikea are just an added bonus.

I have been known to drop everything an pop over to assemble something for a friend once in awhile. However, I do understand the frustrations some feel with flatpack. The instructions can be poor and Ikea has a graphic concept for their instructions that doesn’t always make it easy for the end user to see what connects to what.

Yesterday, I saw a case of this online which led to me tweeting my top 10 Ikea tips. I decided to blog them too (in reverse order, copied from my tweet feed): –

My #Ikea tips: 10. On completion do bask in the feeling of a job well done and the admiration of your family and most important enjoy

My #Ikea tips: 9. Ikea is like #Microsoft once u get your head around the 5-10 types of screws and bolts and flatpack philosophy u r golden

My #Ikea tips: 8. Ask at the store for advice or tips for assembling the product u r buying. Ikea has great customer support

My #Ikea tips: 7. Don’t start if u don’t have all the tools they recommend u need 2 get the job done

My #Ikea tips: 6. Another pair of eyes helps. Don’t be afraid to ask for help the instructions ARE confusing #asinlife

My #Ikea tips: 5. Keep the catalog open so u always have your end result in sight

My #Ikea tips: 4. as in life if u really have to force something it might be wrong

My #Ikea tips: 3 (should have been 1) When u r at Ikea take a close look at the display model and see how it’s put together

My #Ikea tips: 2. Open instructions and see which parts belong to which stage

My #Ikea tips: 1. Layout all the parts from the flatpack and check everything is there

#1 Is probably one of my favorites. I used to do this with those airplane models and then take a few moments just to see if I could understand how everything fit together.

One extra I remembered right now is bolts and screws don’t over-tighten them but also don’t close them until you absolutely are ready to move onto the next stage.

I think that this whole methodology is probably an extension of my professional philosophy in testing, QA and Project Management.

Anyway, happy flatpacking. Enjoy.

Last week I was tamping the coffee grinds into the portafilter cup … the aluminum cup with a black insulated handle that holds the grinds and the heated water passes thru under pressure to make the espresso; I had been a little ill and not paying attention to how I was applying strength to things.
I placed the filled portafilter cup and rotated it and a rather loud snap left me with the handle in my hand and the rest of the aluminum part locked in place.
Had I been alone my first response would probably have been to let rip with a string of vernacular to make a sailor blush but my Mrs and the little guy always seem to help me control that urge just by being there. One brief visit into the laundy room later I was expletive free and of a mindset to resolve this issue until I could get a replacement part.
Oh sure, just manage without the coffee machine until the part arrives. Wait who said that? I’m not sure if my MacGyver like skills come from a natural ability, inherited from several generations back or simple necessity.
First attempt was to repair the handle using epoxy resin. Aluminum apparently is no great friend of this compound. The Mrs was ecstatic I didn’t glue my fingers together in a caffeine withdrawal frenzy. After she managed to stop guffawing, sorry it was more of a giggle, she’s way to lady-like to guffaw (especially at me) she reminded me that in the Sparta-like society that is Israel the ER woul probably just hacksaw my fingertips apart and better to find another solution.
I wrapped my cerebellum around several other trials with less than success until I arrived at an almost perfect solution: an adjustable locking wrench from my toolbox.
This was one of my earlier purchases for my toolbox and as such it was cheap. It’s a tool I have been meaning to replace when I have the chance with one that works better. I can use the espresso machine now but once in awhile the wrench springs open of its own volition to a hearty and poorly timed crash.
Oh well until I get the replacement part.
Yesterday I saw I had a message on my Windows Mobile phone and half paying attention dialed *80 to access my voicemail.
Actually I had dialled *81 and I hung up after several seconds and redialled to discover that by dialling *81 I had activated voicemail recording from my phone.
So the next time you want to have a spy moment or you are in a meeting/ interview you want to keep a discreet record of, try dialing *81 and for the cost of the call you can record the proceedings to your voicemail box.
Now to test other * codes on the phone and see what they do.

Today I popped down with my wife to our parking space just to check the water and oil on her car.

I had borrowed the aging Renault Megane  several days ago and for some reason suspected the radiator was a little low.

One popped bonnet/ hood later lo and behold the water level was showing a dire need for refill.

The Megane has a nice little plastic reservoir that feeds into the radiator but the cap would not open. I looked at it, the cap was plastic with six large teeth, if I tried to use a wrench it would probably snap off or at least get damaged .. what to do?

Inspiration struck and I whipped off my leather belt, looped it over the cap so that the steel belt buckle locked over one of the teeth and the leather loop provided a nice contra and with very little effort I was able to open the cap and have my wife on her way; all the while whistling the tune to MacGyver.

Feeling suitably pleased with myself I went back upstairs to finish my coffee and start the day.

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Anything Leatherman makes is an automatic killer app to me in terms of hardware.

Next month Leatherman releases their newest folding tool the minimalist, ultra-lightweight Skeletool-CX. It’s on my wishlist.

There are times where you don’t need every option under the sun and frankly as much as I love my Charge it is big and sometimes too heavy to carry.

The Skeletool weighs in at 5 ounces versus the Charge’s 8.2. It has a built in carabiner to clip on to your key-ring, jeans, webbing or backpack.

All I have to say is stick a built-in LED flashlight (a la Buck-tools) on there and it will probably go everywhere with me.
I have always been enamored with Batman. That utility belt has to be the coolest accessory ever. Guys all over the world went out looking for gadgets to keep on their belt that would solve all manner of daily problems. But in the late 1980’s I fell in love. I was on Deansgate in Manchester window shopping.

Sitting center-piece was the first Leatherman folding tool I had ever seen, there was almost a halo around it as the sun reflected off the brushed tool steel. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Tim Leatherman is the inventor/ entrepeneur whose name brands perhaps the most brilliant folding tool out there. If this were software I have no doubt it would be up there as a killer app.

The basic idea was a needle nosed plier head and handles containing a variety of tools (knives, saws, files). I was never a huge fan of the Swiss Army Knives but one look at this was all it took. I had to have one because I knew .. I could do anything with this tool. At this stage in life I had never heard of MacGyver (we never had it in England growing up, darn BBC and ITV).

I have managed to roam around with one on my belt forever now, doing most of my home projects on the fly, dealing with PC repairs and so on. These really are the last tool you will ever need and there is an offering for everyone. I keep one in my car (my old beaten up Leatherman) and when it came out I purchased the excellent Leatherman Charge. The Charge is a larger, heavier choice with a titanium body and a greater selection of tools folded into the arms but most important, the tools lock when folded out. This is a particularly important safety feature.

Of course, there are competitors in this field and ultimately it comes down to price, personal preference, loyalty and the sort of jobs you have to do with the tool. Swiss Army themself have a folding tool to compete, so too do SOG Knives, Columbia River and several others.

The competition are never happy simply replicating the wheel so there are some clever variations on the basic folding concept by Spyderco, Gerber and several others. All of these are excellent tools but before you buy ask yourself what you are going to do with the tool and try it in your hand for size, fit and comfort. One website to find these on and compare them before buying is http://www.knifecenter.com/.

As with other “technology” I recommend not to buy a cheap, knock-off as you truly get what you pay for and you will stand there in either puzzlement or pain looking at the tool trying to understand just how it broke at that crucial moment. As they say in my hometown,

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Well I have my “Do-everything” Leatherman, I have my “Just-in-case” (in the car) Leatherman now I need to find the ultimate mini-tool that I can travel with (TSA rules permitting of course).

One final reminder, these tools are not toys so think carefully before treating your teenager to this or any other bladed tool as a present.