emergency preparedeness kit posted: Mon 2012-04-02 07:42:20 tags: n/a
re: made in USA steel can opener

I remember sparking the dinner-table conversation with Dad a long time ago, when I was young and naive, with the question: obviously everybody needs some basic tools and utensils, so why doesn't a consortium of manufacturers get together and hammer out standards for things that will last a lifetime? And Dad, being Dad, proposed planned obsolescence. Later I would have a parallel conversation with a workplace associate, regarding a line of PBX phones which are still in use, 20 years after the manufacturer went out of business, ostensibly because they're TOO well-made.

But there are other forces at work in consumer retail, which is why I can't stroll into Pubilx or Warmalt or Target and buy a tin funnel off the shelf, because they just don't have such a thing. And they don't carry such because at some point, there must have been plastic and tin (or aluminum, etc.) funnels on the shelf side-by-side, and plastic was cheaper to produce so plastic was easier to sell, and retailers said "hey we're not going to devote valuable shelf space to these metal funnels that don't sell". My solution when I was experimenting with bottling electro-tang was to roll up half a sheet of clean writing paper into funnel shape, but I would have been that much happier with a real funnel, because obviously you can't rinse and reuse paper and if you're REALLY obsessive, you might have issues with bleach residua and other contaminants in the paper.

It remains to be seen what will happen to the ubiquity of disposably-cheap plastic implements like funnels and measuring spoons, as natural petrochemicals become more difficult to suck from the bowels of the earth.

I have a cheap-ish clip-based lamp I think I bought in 2008. The plastic clip, it turns out, could not withstand the constant tension of the spring, so one side of the clip grip is cracked. I think it broke right around the time I moved from Casa Cucaracha to Waterways, but reading light was never a problem at Waterways so it got tucked in a storage box. It's still usable; eventually the other side will crack and I'm not sure what use it will be then. Perfectly good lamp and switch, busted support, do we scrap the whole unit or try to retrofit some means of fixture? My guess is a thrift shop wouldn't take it in its current condition.

So I got to thinking about this (again, it's certainly not the first or last time) while I was standing in the checkout line at Warmalt. Here are these ENORMOUS buildings, with all the power-use and enviro-impact they imply, full of low-quality crap that tends to break if it performs its function at all, and medium-quality crap that's stupidly overpriced because not only does it have to absorb the cost of its own manufacture to a useful quality level, it has to absorb the opportunity cost of taking up space in competition with all the low-quality crap product that sells.

Anyway... back to basic tools and implements. If Hurricane Wilma taught me one thing, it's that having some form of generator is a godsend. If I had a homestead squared away, I might make the leap to a biodiesel generator, but for right now, my car-lighter-to-household-AC transformer is fine. ready.gov also suggests laundry-lists of "disaster preparedness" kit. Of which, a manual can opener is one, and having had my share of crappy can openers that lose their edge quickly if they work consistently at all, hence one really good trustworthy can opener is on my wishlist.

"Disaster" shades gently into "personal fuckup", such as locking one's keys in the car or locking oneself out of the house. I'm still pondering secure logistics of that - hiding a key on one's own property is not terrifically smart, so what do you do? hide it one someone else's? Hold spares at another location that you know you'll always have access? Spare housekeys in the car glovebox and spare car keys in the house? Then of course you're boned in instances like that time I locked my keys in the car (with luggage, natch) in the airport parking lot.