What’s in a Cute Mouse?

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Awww…

Let’s clear this up right away – I mean a computer mouse. You didn’t think I would be opening up an actual Mus Musculus did you? Me, who passes out at the thought of blood… uh oh *falls off chair*

One large glass of wine later…

One day last week, the cute mouse for my laptop computer became non-responsive and the light went out of its not-an-eye-at-all. Now, I really do like this particular mouse: it doesn’t weigh a lot, it fits the palm of my hand perfectly and it doesn’t eat its way into my box of breakfast cereal before eating the actual cereal. The night before Christmas, it joins all other mice in not stirring but then it doesn’t indulge in this activity any other night of the year either.

I did a fast diagnosis and decided that it was probably the thin, flimsy USB cable that had probably snapped somewhere inconvenient. In fact, the wires seemed to make intermittent connections right where they disappeared into the body of the mouse.

Time to take it apart!

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What most people see when they take their mouse apart…

I still experience a buzz from disassembling something for the first time. It doesn’t last that long as usually something breaks in the process and a world of sweary pain opens up, but it is there, nonetheless.

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What people like me see when they take their mouse apart…

The difficult bit was removing the cable from the circuit board without melting anything important. Once that was achieved, the difficult bit was reattaching the wire having removed the bit that was broken. As suspected, the wire had indeed snapped at the grommet and, as also suspected, the grommet was an integral part of the wire. The fix here was an old-fashioned knot on the inside of the case to act as a strain relief.

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Notice how the wires had been glued onto the board, making repair that much more irritating… also notice how the letters indicating the colours of each wire don’t actually match up with the colour of the wires. Genius.

 

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In recovery – the patient is doing well

All back together and working well. Hopefully it will be another 3 and half years before I have to do surgery on it again!

oOo

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Categories: computers, repair, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Plastic not-really-Fantastic

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Quite possibly the dullest photograph of anything. Ever.

OK, I’ll try not to get all ranty. Above is a picture of a container used for vitamin tablets (for the dog, but that’s another story). I noticed the other day, as I put the last tablet into Max’s food, that the label helpfully informed me that whilst the body of the receptacle was “Plastic – widely recycled”, the lid was “Plastic – check local recycling facilities”. But, I thought, not caring that my English teacher taught me that starting sentences with conjunctions was a bad idea, but why are the two bits of this thing made from different plastics? In fact, they feel as if they are the SAME plastic. I checked using the zoom function my eyes are equipped with (I held both bits very close to my eyes).

Sure enough, the lid is made of type 5 plastic (polypropylene) and the body is made of type 2 (high density polyethylene). I looked up the difference on the website https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/common_plastics_no_1_to_no_7#.WpgYpR3FL-s and this is what it said:

 High density polyethylene (HDPE)

Description:  Polyethylenes are the most widely used family of plastics in the world. The versatile polyethylene polymer has the simplest basic chemical structure of any plastic polymer (repeating units of CH2: one carbon and two hydrogen molecules) making it very easy to process and thus extremely popular for numerous low value applications – especially packaging. HDPE has long virtually unbranched polymer chains which align and pack easily making it dense and very crystalline (structurally ordered) and thus a stronger, thicker form of polyethylene.

Properties:  stiffness, strength, toughness, resistance to moisture, permeability to gas, ease of processing.

 Polypropylene (PP)

Description:  Polypropylene is used for similar applications as polyethylenes, but is generally stiffer and more heat resistant – so is often used for containers filled with hot food. It too has a simple chemical structure (many methyl groups of CH3 – one carbon and three hydrogen molecules) making it very versatile. It’s crystallinity (structural order affecting hardness & density) is quite high, somewhere between LDPE and HDPE.

Properties:  strength, toughness, resistance to heat, chemicals, grease & oil, barrier to moisture.

So one is a tougher form of the other. Does this matter? No, the body doesn’t need to be any tougher that the lid (the most force either will have to endure in their lifetimes is that of the weight of other boxes of tablets stacked on top, far outweighing the grip strength of an adult attempting to defeat the childproof lid). The problem with type 5 plastic is that it can be mixed with resins that make recycling difficult, so recyclers stay clear of it. I can’t tell if this lid contains any extra resins but the end result is a material that appears to be identical to the type 2 plastic used for the rest of the container.

I am pretty sure that non-plastic, planet-friendly alternatives for vitamin tablet containers exist (made from natural materials such as bamboo for example). Now this container is empty, I will probably use it for holding the many screws I seem to have left over after DIY, or build some exciting electronics project in it. But you know what? I would rather be able to put the whole thing in the compost to turn into food.

So, plastic-bottle-for-tablets-manufacturer – use some common sense here. Make all your packages from one type of plastic and make that the one that is easy to recycle!

oOo

Below are the full descriptions from the website in case you are interested. I’ll pretend you are.

 Polypropylene (PP)

Description:  Polypropylene is used for similar applications as polyethylenes, but is generally stiffer and more heat resistant – so is often used for containers filled with hot food. It too has a simple chemical structure (many methyl groups of CH3 – one carbon and three hydrogen molecules) making it very versatile. It’s crystallinity (structural order affecting hardness & density) is quite high, somewhere between LDPE and HDPE. Properties:  strength, toughness, resistance to heat, chemicals, grease & oil, barrier to moisture.

Typical Use:  Food containers (ketchup, yogurt, cottage cheese, margarine, syrup, take-out), medicine containers, straws, bottle caps, Britta filters, Rubbermaid and other opaque plastic containers, including baby bottles. Other uses include disposable diaper and sanitary pad liners, thermal vests, appliance parts and numerous car parts (bumpers, carpets, fixtures).

Toxicity:  Being relatively stable, it is generally considered a safer plastic for food and drink use, although it has been shown to leach plastic additives (such as the stabilizing agent oleamide) when PP labware was used in scientific experiments (PP1) and one older study has suggested heated PP may be linked to occupational asthma based on the exposure of a worker in a PP factory (PP2).

Recycling Rate:  Low, because often pigmented or mixed with other resins, therefore difficult to sort (PP3).  Recycled material made into brooms, brushes, bins pallets, auto battery cases, flower pots.

Alternatives:  Buy in glass and reuse those bottles/jars – mason jars are incredibly versatile. Use a glass or stainless steel reusable water bottle. Purchase margarine/butter in cubes.

Our Suggestion:  RELATIVELY SAFE. But has been shown to release additive chemicals when used as labware in scientific experiments.

 

 High density polyethylene (HDPE)

Description:  Polyethylenes are the most widely used family of plastics in the world. The versatile polyethylene polymer has the simplest basic chemical structure of any plastic polymer (repeating units of CH2: one carbon and two hydrogen molecules) making it very easy to process and thus extremely popular for numerous low value applications – especially packaging. HDPE has long virtually unbranched polymer chains which align and pack easily making it dense and very crystalline (structurally ordered) and thus a stronger, thicker form of of polyethylene. Properties:  stiffness, strength, toughness, resistance to moisture, permeability to gas, ease of processing.

Typical Use:  Plastic bags (grocery), opaque milk, water, and juice containers, bleach, detergent and shampoo bottles, garbage bags, dishes, yogurt and margarine tubs, cereal box liners, some medecine bottles. Also used in Tyvek insulation, PEX piping, plastic/wood composites.

Toxicity:  Being relatively stable, it is generally considered a safer plastic for food and drink use, although some studies have shown that it can leach the endocrine disruptor nonylphenol (added to HDPE as a stabilizer), especially when exposed to ultraviolet light – i.e., sunlight – and possibly other additive chemicals with estrogen-mimicking activity (HDPE1HDPE2HDPE3).

Recycling:  About 29% (HDPE4). Recycled material made into bottles for non-food items like shampoo, laundry detergent, motor oil; plastic lumber and furniture, piping, recycling bins, fencing, floor tiles, buckets, crates, flower pots, garden edging, film and sheeting.

Alternatives:  Use glass or stainless steel reusable bottles and food storage containers. Buy in glass and reuse those bottles/jars – mason jars are incredibly versatile. Use reusable bags made of natural fibres (cotton, hemp).

Our Suggestion:  RELATIVELY SAFE. But has been shown to release endocrine disrupting chemicals.

https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/common_plastics_no_1_to_no_7#.WpgYpR3FL-s

Categories: Plastic, recycling, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Free wood for mats*

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Slightly on the wobbly side – and that’s before I’ve had any wine!

Way back in the mists of time, well two and a bit months ago, snailMum gave us a Solstice present. The two glasses in the picture are from Ngwenya Glass in Swaziland (I gather snailMum got a bit lost on her way to the supermarket – only kidding.) who create these amazing vessels from glass collected from all the corners of the Kingdom of Swaziland. The company also uses waste newspaper for packing, rainwater for its workshop and old engine oil to power its furnace.

Because both glasses are somewhat lopsided when freestanding and reasonably full of liquid, I thought I would make a couple of coasters for them to sit in that would ensure their precious cargo** was protected from accidental spillage. That thought happened about two and a bit months ago. I guess it’s a long way from one side of my brain to the other. All that empty space to cross… anyway, I digress.

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As luck would have it, today I was out walking the dog and discovered a piece of new-looking 4″ x 2″ wood, lying by the side of the road. There are often things lying by the side of the road that the Snail and I recover. I have a bit from a tractor that I am sure will come in use one day. It’s been around nine hundred days so far, and that one day hasn’t arrived yet.

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Max “helped”

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I used the O-ring from a Kilner jar as a rough template and cut a groove a few millimetres deep around the circle marked. I cut a 32 mm hole and used an old chisel, by which I mean an old screwdriver (because I don’t have an old chisel – or a new one in fact.), to hollow out the wood. The bits removed will be used to boil the Kelly Kettle for a cup of tea tomorrow. I will oil the holders at some point. They will be well oiled. You can make your own joke up.

For DIY that I am involved in, it didn’t take too long to do. And now I feel we have some holders that were made from a discarded resource to match the glasses. Thank you Thimothy! Cheers!

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oOo

* This a pastiche on Free Food for Rats. Probably.

** If wine isn’t precious, I don’t know what is.

Categories: recycling, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Friday Afternoon

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Ever felt like you were being watched?

Ah, Friday afternoons. When I have been on contract, this was often a time that I was sat on a train/on a bench in a railway station waiting for a train/in a car on the motorway heading home after a week away from home. I was filled with the anticipation of reaching my destination station/actually getting on a train in the first place/reaching the end of the hundred miles of traffic cones, and the satisfaction of a week, clearly defined, being at an end. The weekend started there. Well, eventually, when the train arrived or the motorway ran out and I found myself on the small back roads that led home.

More recently, I have worked from home (because writing a novel IS working, I tell myself) which means that Friday afternoons don’t have quite the same air of satisfaction to them.

This Friday afternoon, I have that air back: I cleared a raised bed and accidentally harvested some potatoes and a chilli, all under the watchful eyes of Sam.

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Definitely being watched

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Bed cleared, Sam taking the credit

Time for a cup of tea and a ponder about my next pallet project. And before too long it will be the witching hour, and by that I mean 6 o’clock and time to answer the question of which wine to open.

Friday afternoons – don’t you just love ’em?

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Surprise Harvest

oOo

Categories: gardening, General silliness, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Fistibeaks

Robins can be very territorial, and the one who lives in our garden is no exception. This defence of his realm took less than a second. Fortunately, there was no blood.

Not this time anyway.

oOo

Categories: birds, gardening, wildlife | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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