The Friday Fillip: Modding Things

Nothing works the way it’s supposed to. At least it can seem like that sometimes. And the things in our life have been fractious long before they were also chip-driven.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

You can bet that the homo erectus who carved this lovely pattern into a shell more than half a million years ago had more than one shark tooth scribe split or crack or just plain resist the plan. And it doesn’t bear thinking how many stone axe heads have flown off at critical junctures over the millennia.

Things, as we all know, have minds of their own, typically modelled on the brains of mischievous or downright malevolent trolls. We, their users, have minds too — though at times you wouldn’t know it. And with our superior intellect, we have devised ways to compel things to do our bidding or, if they don’t want to, at least to behave a trifle more . . . usefully. (The wise reader will have spied the flaw in all of this: namely that our ways — our modifications or mods — too often depend themselves on more things. But today at least we’ll avert our superior intellects from this and pretend that there is no problem.)

The instances of these mods are too numerous to catalogue. But a few examples will make clear what I’m talking about. Take fabric, for instance. Fabric is notoriously willful, wrinkling, folding, sagging, tearing and generally coming undone no matter how much we might stomp our foot in command. Thus fabric modders. The steam iron is a well-known modder of fabric (and one that will at the least opportunity deposit a splotch of rust juice on the object being disciplined — but we agreed we weren’t going to look in that direction). Then there are those devices meant to compel fitted sheets to in fact stay fitted, only one of which is demonstrated in this video.

A lesser-known cousin was brought to my attention recently: it’s a brilliant device meant to frustrate the tendency of men’s shirts to rise of their own accord at the waistline and threaten to come untucked. The elastic suspender-like device attaches at one end to the tails of the wayward shirt and at the other end to the tops of the often-times shirking socks: bingo! two fabric mischiefs frustrated at one go. Lest you think I’m merely funning, I invite the brave to click on this link to see this mod in all its high tension glory. (Give no thought to the consequences of a structural failure, I implore you.) The eager among you may purchase these beauties from a company modestly known as Sharp & Dapper.

Not all things misbehave aggressively. Some are quite passive in their malevolence, simply failing to provide what is wanted in the moment. Here our modding must be to supply the lack and — take that! — afix it to the truculent thing. You may find a product known as Sugru to be useful in this respect. It’s a coloured putty substance that, once moulded to your specs, glues itself to almost any surface, where it then hardens into a firm silicone stiffness. No towel hook on that sullen cupboard door? That outdoor water tap handle positively Spartan in its lack of concession to comfort? Sugru might be the solution to these and a host of other withholdings by things.

Then there are those things that could try harder but . . . won’t. I’ll give you only one example here, but it’s a doozy. You’re in a parking lot and you can’t find your silver (or black) car among the myriad other silver (or black) lookalikes. Aha, you say, using that superior intelligence we mooted earlier: I’ll use my key fob to flash the lights and maybe get the horn to beep. The signal just doesn’t reach far enough. Option one is to drop the device to the (undoubtedly) concrete floor and step on it sharply. The temptation to punish recalcitrant things is very strong and only natural. May I, however, suggest option two, to wit: a modification of the lazy fob?

Hold the fob and key against your head and try again. You may be surprised to find that the weak signal is now amplified by all the water in which your superior intelligence resides, allowing it to reach two or perhaps three times the distance it did when slacking. Doubt me? It’s all spelled out and demonstrated in this great video by Professor Roger Bowley.

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