Function is from Mars, Form is from Venus

Nacho Man once told me that if he was a bachelor, all he’d need is a futon and a hot plate.

If that’s all he had, I have no doubt that he’d still be a bachelor.

But instead, he married me. And as we’ve grown up together, we’ve tried to create a cozy home together. It hasn’t been a smooth process. All I can say is that for someone who claims to only need a futon and a portable stove to get through life, he sure has a lot of opinions.

For instance, he thinks that hanging the barbed wire wreath I bought at Second Saturdayz over our entry gives our house a warm, Inquisitiony feel:

“It came from a ranch in Winthrop,” I say. “You know how much we love Winthrop.”

Nacho Man grunts as the extension ladder wobbles beneath him, and I’m glad I can’t hear anything else he might have uttered with that grunt.

Me: “Um, it’s not quite centered up there.” And then I duck and cover.

Rue has a lot of her mother’s aesthetic in her. Case in point:

Why yes, that is a plastic potato taped to the wall. Coincidentally, she did this the exact same day that I bought the barbed wire at the flea market. Uncanny, isn’t it?

This is the part where you imagine yourself standing around this piece of art at a gallery with a bunch of people in berets, wine glasses in hand, talking about the artist’s brilliant minimalist approach, art as social commentary, and otherwise trying to make up a bunch of nonsense about the deeper meaning of a potato taped to a wall.

Sometimes, it’s just a potato taped to a wall.

Lupe draws her inspiration from books:

This is how she’s passing the time until Tom Angleberger’s sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Darth Paper Strikes Back, comes out in August. This started as a way to give fun valentines to her classmates and now she can’t turn it off. I find them littered around the house, these little reminders that Yoda’s looking out for us. Her process, with lots of detailed photos, coming soon.

And as for Nacho  Man, the would-be futon-sleeping, hot plate-cooking bachelor, well, the dude just wants to save a buck:

So we recently decided that we don’t need cable television, that the time and money saved would be great for our family. The only problem is that we had this nice flat-panel television and lousy reception. Nacho Man spent some quality time at the Radio Shack, researching our options for an antenna that would pick up HD channels, and then he uttered the phrase that never fails to give me chills:

“I can make that for free.”

“Really?” I asked. I was trying to be supportive, but all I could think was that Nacho Man can hardly make the bed. And I’m the one who likes to use the power tools. And the only thing he makes me on a regular basis is angry.”Um, okay, great. Maybe that would be a fun project for you and the girls.”

And off they went.

Forty-five minutes later, the contraption you see here was sitting above our television.

Homer Simpson and MacGyver had a love child, and our television had a crystal-clear picture.

This shoebox-duct tape-clothes hanger-diorama-looking wonder has too many benefits to list. For one thing, it was free. No sense spending five bucks on a sleek antenna when you live in a household with barbed wire and potatoes attached to the walls. It’s versatile. With a simple rotation, we can pick up signals in Seattle or Tacoma. How do you like that? And I think it goes without saying that it makes an awesome theft-deterrent device. And finally, if we find a rodent in the house, we can also use this to trap it.

I can’t speak to the (insert throat-clearing sound here) technology behind the device, so I’m going to turn things over to Nacho Man:

This was a fun project and one I highly recommend you undertake with a willing child, no matter how much your wife objects. Start by watching this video for inspiration.  Lupe and I didn’t have all the parts outlined in the video so we improvised.  Lupe worked on the cardboard, foil, shoebox, and glue while I concentrated on cables. We didn’t have a terminal block but I dug up an old Balun I had previously bought at Radio Shack. One end plugs into the coax cable but what to do about the other end?

I found the solution in our kitchen junk drawer: metal binder clips. Perfect for this MacGyver. I clipped them to the two ‘U’ ends of the Balun, making sure there was metal on metal contact.  Then, I cut an old metal coat hanger to make a left and right antenna.

Tape everything up.  Lupe and I used duct tape to secure the cables to the shoebox and we powered up the TV.  We got a decent picture for about 25 channels.  I still had half a coat hanger wire so we looped it into the openings of each binder clip.  We ran the antenna scan on the TV again and picked up an additional 5 channels.  Our TV will display a signal when the signal strength is over 45%.  Most channels are in the 80-90% range.

We can pick up better signals for certain channels depending on which direction the shoebox antenna is pointed.  You can use this website to figure out where to point your antenna for the best signals.


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2 responses to “Function is from Mars, Form is from Venus

  1. Sundee

    Ohhhh . . . . so there actually IS barbed wire in your house! You didn’t point it out the other day and I didn’t see it. I think it’s very cool. And the fact that it’s from the place to which you love to get away, perfect.

  2. Lupe!!!

    What can I say? Apparently approves of our house, Yoda does… who are we to kick him out? 🙂

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