Everything You Need For A Handyman’s Toolbox

For better or worse I’ve spent a good part of the last decade learning various building trades, and even reaching a certain level of proficiency in some of them. In that time I’ve come away with a lot of practical wisdom regarding construction and home improvement, but perhaps none of it is as universally relevant as how to compile the perfect toolbox.

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Seu Madruga represent!

People get pretty personal (and narcissistic) about their tools and their work in general, so I’m sure there are some folks who will say that my toolbox is missing some important element, or maybe has too much crap in it. In response I guess I’d just say that your work will ultimately determine what you need, and any good toolbox should be customized as you go. You might also scoff and say that basically all I’m presenting here is a list of every standard hand tool, to which I would reply: Well, yeah. Isn’t that what we’re going for?

I’ve worked with a lot of guys who have to run back to the truck every time they need a new tool. Or, even worse, end up buying the same tool four times just to keep losing it in their garage. The point of this toolbox setup is that it’s all in one spot: you never even dream of walking onto a job without this one toolbox, because no matter what you’re doing, you’re going to need it. That’s the beauty, that’s the simplicity, and that’s the point.

That said, please don’t think you need to acquire all of this stuff before you can start fixing things around the house. But if you do end up using this guide as a checklist, I’d wager there’s not much else you’d ever want.

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Proof that all this crap actually fits in that little toolbox.

A Note About The Tools: You’ll probably notice that a number of my tools are Kobalt, which is the Made-in-China proprietary brand of Lowe’s. This is for two reasons: around where I live Lowe’s is usually the best place to go, and their tools have the kind of bulky weight to them that you want to feel in a hand tool. They also come with a lifetime warranty, but so does all the same stuff you can get at Harbor Freight, which is where I’d recommend getting your tools if you’d rather not pay the prices at Lowe’s.

A Note About the Toolbox: My toolbox is a Stack-On 16″ Hammer Box. I have seen part of the fastening mechanism break off on these, but never to a point where it’s not still functional. Note that it is made out of steel like a damn toolbox should be, so don’t waste your money on some plastic bin crap. Also note that it’s only sixteen by seven inches, which is smaller than most people would expect an all-purpose toolbox could be.

I should also say that even though this toolbox and its contents were born of my own experiences, the core of it was passed down to me over the years, much as any skill is passed from mentor to apprentice.

♦♦♦ Continue Reading ♦♦♦

The Walking Dead #126 (Spoilers)

ISSUE #126 – ALL OUT WAR PART 12 OF 12
Read on Youtube

Now it’s getting good.

It seems that a lot of people didn’t enjoy the resolution to ALL OUT WAR, with debates raging around whether or not the decision to let Negan live is consistent with the behavior of the characters we know and love.

I think a lot of us have to admit that we personally would just like to see Negan in the ground, but really the chance to accompany how his character develops behind bars is just too precious an opportunity to squander. He seems slated to become a recurring symbol of the changing tone in the books, and I for one hope we see a lot of philosophizing from him in the future.

As far as whether or not the decision to let Negan live makes sense in terms of Rick’s character, I feel like a retrospective read through the latter’s shifting battles with morality can definitely help explain the behavior. Many folks are saying that they agree with Rick in principle, but that Negan in particular is too dangerous and has done too many terrible things to be allowed to live.

What’s missing here is that it’s specifically because it’s Negan that he is being allowed to live. Rick realized long ago that killing Negan was not enough, or he could have been crudely assassinated at many points (though I’ll admit that his continued survival through multiple firefights with heavy casualties did begin to strain credulity). Because Negan had such a strong mental hold over The Saviors, Rick recognized that he himself had to be publicly broken. This is what the whole build-up has been about, and that’s why the closing line in this issue hits like a ton of bricks. I for one believe it’s altogether a rather brilliant turn, and one of the better climaxes the book has offered, yet.

All that said, there were some problems in the pacing of this issue. That Michonne and Ezekiel et al. could flank and ambush the opposing camp in deadly hand-to-hand combat just moments before the conflict suddenly resolves itself and everyone goes home is a liiiiiittle bit difficult to swallow, and it’s going to be an uphill battle for these groups to start trusting and trading with each other all of a sudden.

Now, The Walking Dead is well-written enough to tackle this. It’s usually not long after the reader starts wondering something like, “How the hell is Michonne’s sword still sharp?” that something about it organically gets mentioned in the series without distracting from the overall plot. Any future interactions between the survivors we know and The Saviors we might meet is going to be extremely delicate, but there will be plenty of opportunity for new plot points to develop as an age of cooperation begins.

We also have the tattooed, crossbow-totin’, half-his-face-melted-off Dwight stepping up to the apparent leadership of The Saviors, which somewhat cements his role as a sort of fan-service replacement for the beloved Daryl Dixon, who thus far has only appeared in the AMC television adaptation. This seems fair, since that character archetype is the only redeeming quality in the entire godawful television franchise.

Speaking of the show, I’ve lauded the Cracked Podcast on here before, and coincidentally enough their latest episode featured some amount of really rather relevant vitriol against the series from head writer Dan O’Brien:

What they could have done with that show is tell us what happens to people when the world breaks down. After the world ends, what does that do to society? Make it moke it more… “Lord of the Flies” where this is what man is at his core and instead they’re still following around a sheriff (which is a completely arbitrary decision) and we’re not showing what happenes next to society … I want zombies in the background, honestly … they shouldn’t be the primary antagonist … mostly I want to know who seizes power when the world ends? Who are the opportunistic people, how do they rally, what does a real, true, honest-to-goodness post-apocalyptic show look like? They could have done that, and they’re just… not.

Dude pretty much hits it right on the head… and to be fair I haven’t watched the series since that embarrassment of a third season, but what’s really funny is that all the things he believes are missing from the TV show are exactly what have made the comics such an unassailable icon of pop culture storytelling over the last decade. In the pages of The Walking Dead, the zombies have always been in the background while robust character development carries the story forward.

Anyway, everything in issue 126 is a net gain for the book and for us as readers. Now that Dwight and The Saviors will be sticking around to help rebuild society, we might actually get to learn a little about them. More importantly in my shallow view, it’ll get some of those crazy tattooed biker types circulating around, which is exactly the kind of ridiculous Road Warrior aesthetic that I want to see.

As mentioned in my review for Issue 125, Kirkman has previously discussed (for years now, really) his desire to take the books to a really solidly “post-apocalyptic” setting with its own distinct, emerging culture. The kick-off for this new pacing in the comics is next issue, and Kirkman suggested to me in his Reddit AMA that we’ll finally get to see what kind of sick chainsaw hand Rick is getting.

Issue #127 out May 14th!

Game of Thrones: All the Controversy Over “Breaker of Chains”

This post contains spoilers from the books and show. I might even throw in a trigger warning, although in general I do not make a habit of it.

Ever since A Song of Ice and Fire superfans Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson put up a preview video discussing their impressions of the first three episodes from the fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones there had been some speculation over a comment made that, as the plot lines change increasingly from book canon, the third episode in particular (Breaker of Chains) would feature a controversial scene, and probably not sit well with fans of a certain character.

Many people’s gut instinct, and certainly mine, was to expect something particularly unsavory to happen to Sandor Clegane, The Hound, whose storyline this season has diverged dramatically from the books after he emerged unscathed from a fight that should have left him critically wounded. Speculation, of course, runs towards explaining his continued good health as a way to draw out Arya’s story before shipping her off to Braavos, but either way you look at it there will likely be some new ruinous trauma for the beloved character in the very near future (a run-in with his brother Gregor, The Mountain, makes sense in terms of geography and would work to re-introduce the elder Clegane before Tyrion’s coming trial).

But to the relief of many fans nothing too ridiculous happened to Sandor during episode three (although he did rather brusquely rob a peasant family, painting him in a decidedly less sympathetic light). Instead, we were given a disturbing interpretation of Jamie and Cersei’s tryst in the Great Sept of Baelor (which in the books, remember, is the first time they’ve seen each other in months) that really cannot be taken as anything other than a straight-up rape.

“Wait, wait, wait… what the fuck is happening!?” – Everyone who watched this

Let’s pause a moment to contextualize rape a little bit in the world of Ice and Fire. As someone who does not willingly court fictional depictions of sexual assault, it has really been quite refreshing to see the way those themes have been dealt with in ASOIAF. Make no mistake: the setting involves a good bit of medieval warfare and the accompanying violent patriarchal order, so in truth there are hundreds upon thousands of rapes dotting the narrative in Westeros. At the same time, it is not something that is ever brought to bear too explicitly on our main characters, the majority of whom of course seem to be of the nobility (I point this out because of the intersections between class and sexual violence, not to criticize the writing). Although rape pervades the story in many ways (Elia of Dorne, anyone?) it is never used exploitatively or to add needless drama. Martin’s portrayal of his female characters and their inner motivations has been rightly praised for years, not least because it allows for some really interesting reflections on female culture in a world where one’s sexuality is treated as being the property of a man (the juxtapositions between Brienne of Tarth and Catelyn Stark being some of the most masterful).

In contrast, the television series has struggled to develop anything close to the same level of depth around these themes and, absent the particular constraints and opportunities of a point-of-view narrative, has unfortunately tended more towards the pornographic.

Last season saw Melisandre rape Gendry for no discernible reason other than to provide Carice Van Houten with another nude scene. Seriously… go back and try to find some narrative justification for it; it’s a scene that not only didn’t exist in the books, but had no real cause to exist in the show. Sansa’s assault during the riot in Kings Landing (Season 2) is much more heavily dramatized and sexualized in the show, with the implication that she is about to be raped made very clear. Even the first season’s wedding night between Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo was simplistically enacted as rape whereas the depiction of their marriage in the books (while still beginning as an exchange of property wrought with sexual coercion) benefits largely from Daenerys’ point-of-view and manages to explore ideas of consent with some nuance. No such care is taken in the television series, leaving watchers to try and sort out all the ambiguity for themselves.

These often minor, sometimes jarring shifts in the story obviously reflect the limitations of translating to the screen a source material so heavily reliant on implied events and inner dialogue, but are likely also indicative of what kind of tone is expected from HBO dramas as a whole.

Let’s also contextualize our characters a little bit: Jamie is of course a darling of the series and of show watchers in particular right now, a good chunk of the preceding season having been devoted to his redemptive arc. So at least some of the popular outcry over Sunday’s episode comes not necessarily out of an instinctual revulsion to rape but rather feelings of personal injustice over what many are seeing as character assassination.

It’s not long after this point in the books that Jamie and Cersei will have drifted apart entirely, which is a very delicate transition to pull off believably and so it’s possible that the show creators are using this scene to help develop tension between the characters.

Eric Levenson over at The Wire put together a pretty good synopsis of the differences in the scene from the books to the show, with excerpts of dialogue and some pretty perplexing commentary from episode director Alex Graves and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jamie.

Perhaps most satisfyingly for fans, the controversy even spilled over into A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin’s personal blog, where he left a lengthy comment discussing the scene and its various implications relative to the narrative presented in the books. There isn’t much more to be said after that, so I’ll leave you with it.

PS. I had entertained notions of reviewing each new episode this season as it premiered, but haven’t found myself quite motivated enough. If you’d like to see this type of content featured more regularly on this blog however, I’d love to hear about it.

The Walking Dead #125 (Spoilers)

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ISSUE #125 – ALL OUT WAR PART 11 OF 12
Read on Youtube

The nonstop action that has characterized the “All Out War” story arc gets put on simmer for this issue as Rick and Negan come face to face and talk out some of their differences. The practical aspects of rebuilding civilization and the coming promise of a resurgent and self-aware human society have been touched on a few times in the book already, but this is the first time we see the premise so plainly laid out for the reader.

We get perhaps our deepest insight into Carl’s psyche, Eugene makes it back to the hilltop with a cache of ammunition, and some hand-picked survivors led by Jesus, Ezekiel, and Michonne leave through a side exit to try and outflank The Saviors.

The next issue will conclude the All Out War arc and creator Robert Kirkman has said that from that point on the book is going to be very different. Given all the foreshadowing we’ve seen involving themes of a nascent post-apocalyptic society, not to mention another cameo this issue by blacksmith Earl Sutton (who surely is working on something exceptionally cool for Rick’s prosthetic) it’s safe to say that anticipation is high.

Issue #126 out April 23!

The Walking Dead Issue #124 (Spoilers)

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ISSUE #124 – ALL OUT WAR PART 10 OF 12
Read on Youtube

Although Kirkman has said that he had some big things planned for issue 125, I think this one is going to live on for a while in its own right as a poignant reminder of what makes this book worth returning to over and over.

Adlard’s art hits new levels with the introduction of darkness as an environmental hazard in the battle between Rick’s group and The Saviors, dramatically suggesting the setting without ever making the dark panels look lazy.

A major point of speculation left from issue #123 was whether or not Savior turncoat Dwight had actually used a bolt coated in zombie blood when he shot Rick through the abdomen. This issue resolves the question when we learn that the others who were wounded in the battle with the Saviors are coming down with fevers as if they had been bitten, but Rick appears to be recovering normally. This might be one of the more satisfying – and innovative – cliffhangers that Kirkman has offered.

Fan-favorite Carl makes another notable appearance demonstrating his character’s remarkable development over the course of the series, and the “All Out War” story arc continues to build at a breakneck pace with multiple satisfying climaxes on order for the next two issues.

Issue #125 out April 9th!