Wartime Booty

There are two WWII trophies in my family. One is a polishing cloth. Another is a fork.

I used the polishing cloth for many years without knowing what it was. Recently, I learned it’s origin. When my grandfather entered Budapest with the Red Army, the city was in ruins. The beautiful Parliament building was not that badly bombed, but all the windows were broken and shockwave scattered much of the furniture around it. So the polishing cloth came from a broken Budapest Parliament chair.
The Parliament

The Cloth

On the Net I found the following reference:
Inside the acoustically superb council chamber are 438 specially
designed leather chairs for the deputies, while the velvet-upholstered
seats in the inner circle are reserved for the ministers of the government.

So I’ve been polishing my boots with a piece of velvet from a Hungarian government minister’s chair.

The second piece of Gramps’ wartime spoils is a German fork. It’s a regular fork with no markings, except that it’s extremely heavy and a bit bigger than regular forks. It’s the most ergonomic fork that I’ve ever ate with. It’s my dad’s favorite fork.

This fork gave me an idea. Why do I keep eating with crappy modern utensils, when I can buy cool stuff on eBay. I’ve decided to replace all of my utensils with WWII era military ones.
Here’s the first arrival: the seller claims that it’s a British paratrooper’s fork.

I don’t understand what GR or SR stands for.

I also can’t identify the metal it’s made out of. It’s too light to be silver, but heavier than aluminum. Maybe some alloy..

WML : Lord of the Custom Cases

I am a little weird when it comes to organizing stuff. I am kind of like this dude in Chekhov’s “A Man in a Case”. I like cases. In particular, I like custom cases.

For instance, if you purchase an expensive telescope, chances are it will come with a case. This case will be a box filled with a special kind of foam. This foam has a pre-cut silhouette of the scope and accessories. This way everything fits exactly.

This reminds me of the Kazbek-U Soyuz spacecraft couches that are custom made for each cosmonaut.

A chair made for Norman Thagard at the National Air and Space Museum.

I’ve seen cooler chairs in a museum in Moscow when I was a child, probably from Salyut or maybe even Vostok missions, but I can’t find any references.

Anyway, back to custom cases. I really want a case for my bedside table. It should hold my glasses, keys, wallet, watch and wedding ring. This may look comical, but is rather convenient. I can’t just leave all this stuff on the tabletop because Tilde the cat likes to play with things. Tilde already “disappeared” my nice titanium wedding ring. I don’t want to just put everything into a box because I don’t want my keys to scratch up my really, really expensive glasses.

So anyway, the are three steps in making a custom case. Get a box. That’s easy. Get some foam. That’s a bit harder, but you can get it a good photo store like B&H or Adorama. Now comes the hard part. Cutting the foam.

My first attempt failed miserably. I tried cutting the foam with a sharp blade, and I could not make any straight cuts. Then I tried to cut the foam with a hot knife. That generated a lot of stinky smoke and the results were not very good. But finally I found a solution on the Net.

It’s really ingenious.
What you need to do is soak the foam in water, wring it out and then freeze it. Frozen foam can be easily cut with a knife or drilled with a drill or a sharpened pipe.

Here is the article.

Of course, it’s best to use multiple layers of foam to create the relief effect like this:

WML: Ligh My life

You know what I hate? Well, many things. But I especially hate bad lighting. Office lighting. Even in the best furnished, expensive offices with Aeron chairs in cubes and espresso machine in the kitchen, lighting is provided by the same crappy cheap fluorescent fixtures of horror.

You know them. There is probably one hanging above your cube right now. Grating on your eyes, throwing glare onto your monitor. Giving you headaches and depressing the hell out of you. Well, of course, it’s not like that everywhere. For instance, a long time ago, in a galaxy called the dot com, I interviewed at a company called Betelgeuse. It was named after an extremely bright red supergiant in the Orion Nebula, which name English speakers pronounce “beatlejuuuze” OR “beatlejuice”, and Russians pronounce “betelgeyze”. It’s a dying star, about to explode (or go supernova if you want to put a positive spin on it).

In any case, this company had the coolest lighting scheme. They turned off all the lights except a few small spotlights, and lit the corridors with decorative candles. The offices were lit with individual lamps.

But what can a cube monkey like me (and probably you) do about the lighting situation? Well, for one, you can kill the horrible hell beacon above your cube. Since there is no light switch, here is what you need to do.

Get onto a chair and get close to the lighting fixture. Your task is to unplug the fluorescent tube from it’s socket. It can be usually accomplished by rocking the tube slightly left-right and away from the socket. Make sure to let your friendly maintenance person and your boss know you are doing this. You don’t want someone trying to open the fixture and get hit on a head with a fluorescent tube. Also, don’t burn or electrocute yourself. This trick only works with fluorescent tubes.

But Michael, you ask, what else can I do? You can light everything with full spectrum natural lights. A cheapo solution is to use GE reveal bulbs. They cost about as much as regular incandescent bulbs but have a spectrum that is less yellow. Everything looks a bit better. I use Reveal bulbs at home.

There is also a more expensive option – full spectrum fluorescent fixtures. Remember, in previous WML I mentioned aquarium limps? Well, besides aquarium lights they make full spectrum tubes for regular lighting.