Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Junk Drawer Ramble

Current Reading: Pinion, by Jay Lake

Inspirational Quote: "To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk." -- Thomas A. Edison.

Yesterday, Virginia decided it didn't like it's current location, so it picked itself up and moved itself about a quarter of an inch. It then settled back down, either content with its new location or exhausted from the move. No one can be sure. There are no certainties when geography gets restless.

A few days ago, Jack Layton, a Canadian politician who lead the federal New Democratic Party to it's current position as official opposition, died of cancer. In a rare move, the Prime Minister of Canada decided to hold a state funeral to honor his fallen opponent. Mr. Layton was only beginning to exert his influence in federal politics, and I think the business of the Nation will suffer for his absence.

The 2011 WorldCon SFF convention was held this past weekend in Reno, Nevada. I was not there. My absence was, of course, noted by almost no-one except me. However, I've been watching the Hugo Awards, which is the next best thing to being there in exactly the same way that hearing someone talk about Matchbox cars is the next best thing to driving in the Grand Prix. Next year, WorldCon is in Chicago. I want to go. However, since it falls over the same weekend as my 23rd anniversary, the odds of my being able to convince Penelope to tolerate my going (or even... gasp... come with me) are about equivalent to the odds of an ice-cube surviving a thermonuclear detonation.


So: every house I know of has a junk drawer. I don't know why. I think it's traditional. The junk drawer's express purpose is to serve as a repository for all those bits and pieces and odds and ends that don't really have any other place. Shoe laces. Batteries. Mismatched screws. Extra scissors. Mine has nightlights and doorstops and baby-proofing hardware leftover from before Cassandra stopped crawling.

Junk drawers are notable for three things:

(1) They're always in the kitchen. If you're ever walking down the street and suddenly find yourself in need of a button, or elastic band, or a bit of string, just walk into any house. Find the kitchen and start opening drawers. You'll find what you need inside of five minutes. Guaranteed. I don't know why it's always in the kitchen. Probably because that's usually where you are when you realize you need something obscure. Possibly because it's one of the few non-bedroom rooms in the house that has lots of drawers.

(2) They have a tendency to swell. When you move in, you've got one junk drawer that's half-full of stuff you know you're going to need eventually. A few years later, the drawer's full. A few years after that, it's a drawer and a bin on the kitchen counter and you've got no idea what's in it. Once in a while, you open it up and go "Hey! That's where that went! I haven't seen that in months. I'll have to remember it's there!" Then you close the drawer and five minutes later you've forgotten all about whatever it was. Soon it becomes a closet... but only the first two shelves. Or four. Or, okay, the whole closet. We'll find somewhere else to keep the blankets.

My parents have a shed. It's basically a massive junk drawer outside the main house. It contains nothing anyone would ever possibly need, but it's all stuff they don't want to get rid of because... well, you might never need it but the moment you get rid of it you're going to wish you hadn't.

(3) They contain everything. The cure for cancer is sitting in someone's junk drawer right now. So is Jimmy Hoffa. The end of Schubert's unfinished symphony was stuck in a junk drawer and lost to the ages. Einstein postulated that the average junk drawer contains a sufficient mass of esoteric matter as to form wormholes. Every junk drawer is in fact merely a visible manifestation of a single universal drawer which contains the missing dark matter required to close the universe.

Of course, the mathematics proving this were lost when Albert stuck the proof in a kitchen drawer and forgot about it.

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