March 22nd, 2010 - The Incredible Wall of Shame!

I got such a deal on this air-conditioning equipment, it was like a Bananza! You know, spelled like it sounds, like salsa and taco. If you're my mom.




Many years and about 25 pounds ago, I raced bicycles. Road, Mountain, and Cyclo-cross.
Grunt.

To race regularly I had to of course keep my bicycles running.
This I did myself, either outdoors in our sunny backyard with the aid of my trusty Park Tool® shop-quality bicycle workstand, (long may she wave) or in our dank basement, with the vise-head off of my trusty Park Tool® shop-quality bicycle workstand, bolted to an ancient metal desk hitherto known as 'the workbench.'
I say hitherto, as since we are now moving, the old shop is, sadly (for some, not all), in the process of being de-commissioned.
Admittedly, bicycle racing puts a certain "strain" on bicycle components that "normal" use might not, (debatable) but there are times when, shall we say um, "design faults" and uh, "manufacturing defects" arise out of the pure "intended use" of bicycle parts and equipment.
Examples of these, ahem, FAILURES had a special place in my basement shop. After I had healed up enough to repair my bike after their FAILURE, I would nail what was left of the evidence (should there be any) to a large wooden beam holding up the kitchen floor, and heretofore known as "The Wall of Shame."
Of course, not all of the brilliant examples of mis-engineering or mechanical failure from "overuse" could be archived on 'the post' (some because I was so pissed that they broke that I immediately cursed them out profusely and chucked them forcefully into the 'trashcan' (actually, a big box for an Apple Mac II... coincidence...?)
However, as I was disassembling the shop recently, I mournfully laid out what was currently nailed to the post and thought I would present it to you, dear reader, in the hopes that YOU could avoid similar mishap.
So, as we draw back the curtain, I welcome you to that "Hall of Bicycle Horrors"; the Incredible Wall of Shame...!!!:

The current Wall of Shame, relocated to the current Top of the Washing Machine.

1. Though it looks strikingly like a coffee bean, this piece of crap metal is, or was supposed to be, a perfectly (well, within limits) round ball-bearing.
It was NOT supposed to 'crack in half' like a Spanish peanut exposing a SEAM AND CAVITY DOWN THE MIDDLE, and grind up the inside of my relatively expensive road bike wheel hub in doing so.
Whatever I did to make it fail was, I assure you, 'nothing major' (hit a Minnesota pothole or the like, I've done far worse). Epic FAIL.
Nowadays, most ball-bearings are sealed in their own races and sleeves already, so you don't get to choose them individually. Hopefully they now are of higher quality than some of the old 'loose' ones.

2. One would think that this bearing cone-race would have suffered it's chipped-off layer from the failure of the ball-bearing above, but no. Another blunt force trauma to the rear wheel resulted in, this time, the bearings staying round, (as they should) but the cone race they were riding on losing a large chunk of metal inside the hub and me going, "Why are my brakes rubbing...? Why is my rear wheel so wobbly all of a sudden...? Hey! My rear hub sounds like a cement mixer...!"
Not supposed to happen. And no, I don't run my bearings too tight or without lube. Don't even think about it. Another hub bites the dust. FAIL.

3. Submitted for your disapproval: tires with side lugs that tear off exposing the tire cords and lining beneath. I had not seen this from a bike tire before (I HAVE seen it from cheap, recapped car tires however).
I remember exactly where this happened during a MTB race: at Buck Hill, where there was an area that was previously covered with very close growing shrubs that had been cut back, and for some evil reason left as two inch long mini-stumps coming out of the ground.
As you rode through this section you could hear them pinging and popping off of your tires and rims, but usually you did your best to provide minimal contact so as not to lose speed to this nasty area nicknamed "The Minefield." Evidently, one ripped one of my lugs off at some point, exposing the cords under the surface of the tire. Miraculously, I finished the race without a flat, but had the constant thwap, thwap, thwap of loose rubber hitting my brakes for the last three laps. FAIL. The lugs work better if they stay on the tires.

4.Here is a nice graphic example of why manufacturers shouldn't use cheap cast aluminum for a part that you depend on frequently, say to stop the bicycle. The brake lever on the right side of the photo should be attached to the inside of the black metal hood on the left side of the photo, but it cannot because half of the hood is gone from striking an object and breaking into multiple pieces. FAIL. Machined aluminum will normally show some 'give' before it fails, this cheap cast shatters worse than Mick Jagger.
Well, you get what you pay for. Unfortunately, it happened on the first lap of the race and I had to finish with a front brake only, not a enviable position to be in during a mountain bike race. Eh, the adage is, "Good mountain-bikers never use their brakes anyway..."

5. Mountain bike chain. Chains are supposed to be nice and straight so that they stay on the cogs all nice and snuggly. Through the chronological evolution of bicycle's rear gear cassettes, with 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and now 10 cogs on them (!), the spacing between those cogs has continually decreased. Hence, the overall width and thickness of the chain and it's materials have also decreased. They are a little bit lighter, but they are a lot weaker. One missed shift under load and your chain attains "The Twizzler Effect".
This particular manifestation brought no end of grief to my race that day.
It was a slow, technical course, (Spirit Mountain) requiring a lot of shifting, which I was getting a lot of, though not on my own accord - my bent chain was shifting gears up and down on it's own like a automatic transmission from the Twilight Zone.
I finally had to stop, flip the bike upside down and perform some triage on it by sticking the only tool I had (an allen wrench) through the chain to try and 'unwind' the skew out of it. This helped, but the frustration continued until I was forced to stop again to take out a big chunk of chain and finish the race not being able to shift into larger gears because my chain was too short.
I hate stopping during races. It's so... antithetical.

6. The dreaded "tubular" tire. (Cross-section, with Presta valve shown)
It even looks like it's tongue-razzing you from the cross-section, like someone holding a birthday balloon. The construction is actually not far from a birthday balloon.
Bicycle purists we tell you, "tubular tires are the greatest!"
That is because they are on sponsored teams and don't have to change their own tires. IMHO, they suck. You have to GLUE THEM ON TO THE RIM with a glue resembling klister ski wax, which gets everywhere and makes you cry.
Then, unless the glue is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT (and even then sometimes) if you are going full out around a sharp corner in a crit or road race, it's a hot day and you've been using your brakes and additionally heating up your rim, the glue begins to get a little soft, a little sloppy. And just when you're about to put the pedal to the metal (or the cleat to the pedal) for the final sprint, it just so happens that your presta valve (shown above) is on the bottom of the wheel rotation when the wheel is tilted at a sharp angle because of the corner you are trying to cut sharper than anyone else so you can sprint to the finish and win $10, the glue starts to slip and the tire creeps off of the wheel and PIFF...!!! All of that 140 psi of air inside the tire rapidly disappears and you are quickly riding on the rim for a few feet as your bike veers wildly into the pack, off of the course and into a hay bale for a quick broken collarbone, as the rest of the riders you just knocked down begin taking turns pummelling you for ruining their race too. Yep, tubular tires are awesome.
I never want to see them again. Oh, but you CAN repair them, by cutting open the whole inside of the bead (removing the glue first) finding the hole in the paper-thin latex inner-tube, sealing it, and sewing the whole thing back together again, regluing it to the rim, letting it dry overnight, and praying.
Or you could pay $100 for a new one. Sorry, but you can't use a conventional clincher tire on your tubular rim either, it's not compatible. Too bad.
Purists be damned (in this case). The one good thing I have found about tubular tires though, is that they ride pretty well when completely flat if the glue holds. Which is a good thing, considering...

7. A not-so-distant cousin, the ultralight latex tube. Made for when you want lighten up your super-narrow time-trial tires for that super fast record-breaking run.
One problem. They too are PAPER THIN and the rubber is porous like a kid's balloon. What happens to a balloon after it's been taped on the fencepost all night after the party? It turns into a little wrinkled latex potato. Same here. They don't hold air for more than 24 hours. Not worth the headache or any 'mental advantage'.
Possibly the originator of the cycling phrase, "One run and yer done."

8. Beautifully machined, expensive name-brand, granny-gear aluminum chainring. Note the beefy inner spurs and sturdy construction for aggressive race-worthy action.
One problem. They used a lot of metal to stabilize the center of the ring, but not much on the teeth themselves, which actually bear the burden. So, as the arrow shows, they break off. Note how relatively new-looking the rest of the teeth are. That's because the part is only about a week old and has seen one race. Then you begrudgingly take off a bunch of parts to be able to even get to it to take it back off, and you nail it to "The Beam" so you can curse it repeatedly. Sweet.

9. Okay, last one and my rant is over. For now. This is actually more of a shame on me, and an example of how far a part can go and still work.
Derailleur pulley. Should have replaced it long ago. But, with winter riding in grime and slush, why put on good parts just to beat them up if they still work?
Note the teeth. They should look like the teeth on the chainring in the photo above (except for the broken one).
But they are so worn down, they can barely be called teeth anymore. This is actually termed "dorsalling" as they begin to resemble the bent-back dorsal fin of a shark at this point.
Everything wears together; the chain, the cogs, the chainrings, the derailleur pulleys, until entropy wins the race.
It is amazing that some parts can wear down this far and still function, yet I've had other derailleur pulleys that picked up a bit of gravel or grit, broke a tooth, and earned me a ride home in the back of a pickup full of chickens.
The mysteries of physics. The never cease to astound. Me, anyway.
The bicycle revolves around it's wheels...

March 19th, 2010 - Surreal Ashland, Continued...

I have waxed prolifically (Have I? I dunno, maybe) in past editions of this blog about how my trips up to my hometown of Ashland, Wisconsin always seem to net some sort of surreal imagery.
I'm not sure what it is about the place.
It's an old town, for Wisconsin, and rather ecclectic, possibly owing to the fact that it's usually winter there for almost six months of the year. It's a geographic crossroads between Minnesota (50 miles west) and Michigan (40 miles east).
On the north it's bounded by Lake Superior, that somewhat ego-maniacal sounding (Well, it IS the largest of the five Great Lakes of North America, the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, and the world's third-largest freshwater lake by volume) body of water, which must influence people's perception somehow, what with all the free ions and tidal forces and iron ore in the water supply and such.
So whatever it is that adds to the surreality, it seems to pop out when I'm there. Hmm. Maybe it's me.
Be that as it may, this time either because I've been in a funk lately, (not the good kind) or because I just haven't been on intimate terms with my camera much, I had to go looking for some surrealism, but I did find a little.
One thing I noticed on a walk with Hapdog was the frequency of old blue-glass insulators still on the telephone poles, or probably more acurrately, the 'power' poles.
For that matter, even that the poles themselves were still there is something, as most wiring is below ground these days.
There's something about that deep aquamarine glass that sucks my glance right to it. I'm surprised they haven't been stolen, shot off, or pelted and chipped by rocks by now.
For those of you out of the know, these glass (and sometimes ceramic) insulators used to adorn nearly all power poles to separate the wiring from the nearby metal conductors, and prevent arcing during storms. Sometimes they got so hot during lightning strikes that they cracked or exploded on their own.
My first exposure to macramé was in the 7th grade, when we macraméd them upside-down into hanging rope-mesh planters. I was impressed. It was fun.

Speaking of electrical devices, I noticed the former Wilmarth Elementary School (now an apartment complex) had this ornate lightning rod at the top of it's highest gable.
I mean, this is from the days when you just didn't throw up any utilitarian conductor of electricity on your roof, no, you need at least some wrought iron curliques and an amber glass ball, this is a school for cryin' out loud, Beaser might have one, and we need to outdo them.
I wonder if the amber glass ball has a function, besides possibly being an insulator. It could be a fuse or an indicator of being struck or the like.
I'm not sure what keeps the lightning from striking the much larger surface area of the metal peak of the gable however, I guess the janitor has to go up there every couple weeks and sharpen the bayonet to make sure it gets good contact.
By the way, there really wasn't lightning coming out of a clear blue sky that day (although I've heard it does happen), I just happened to have some lying around so I thought I'd dress it up a bit.

Another alleged surrealism is the infrequent occurence of these somewhat odd pink & black fire hydrants. Occasionally, in Ashland you will come across a fire hydrant not painted in the standard yellow & black (or now just orangish yellow) battle colors, but pink & black.
This one had so many layers of thick paint chips on it, I could see the yellow & black from years past, along with an all-over red, and even a touch of green. Happy seemed to be enjoying the archive of dog urine which was probably as old as the hydrant, so I had to cut him off before he flooded us out.
Interesting aside; the manufacturer of the hydrant is named 'Waterous.'
This last pic is the same house and tree as is shown in the black and white image at the lead-in, in it's current spooky blue. The tree really makes the deal, it is some kinda piece of work.

The house is something too, with it's triple columned porch uprights, picture window, turreted captain's parlour, ornate millwork, and slightly askew bannister end-pieces, and of course, a giant fish weather vane. Yup, the sturgeon says the wind is out of the north. The sturgeon is never wrong.
It's got a brownstone basement that looks about as old as my mom's house, which was built in 1889. The sandstone foundation probably came from the Apostle Islands, likely Basswood Island, a very sought after quarry that provided the brownstone for many famous American buildings throughout the nation.
That tree defines surreal for me. I had to move on before it shook my hand and started telling me stories...

March 18th, 2010 - Where Are All The Dinosaurs At?

 Well, I went from waking myself up from two nights ago gasping and stifling a shreik dreaming that I had just ridden my bike over the edge of a cliff, to last night's Paleo-philosophical meanderings at four in the morning.
Not sure what set off the bike incident, and it realy wasn't fair because I woke up just as I disappeared off of the cliff into thin air with the land falling away below, and I never got the chance to even try and land it. I mean, I might have made it, I pulled off some servere things when I was mountain bike racing that I never thought I would survive, but I have also failed epicly.
It was just kind of a surprise, like I was flying down a mountain road and going around a bend with a reverse camber when the bike quickly crept further and further towards the apogee of the turn until... whoop, off into space with that feeling of Wile E. Coyote pedaling in place until he realizes it, looks down, gulps, and drops like a rock.
However, the next night before bed my mom and I had watched a program about the evolution of man, with the myths and stories that accompanied mankinds' proposed evolutionary changes. That may have had something to do with me waking up thinking about the extinction of the dinosaurs at four in the morning. Dunno.

My early morning question went something like this: When the dinosaurs inhabited the earth, why was everything so big...? Why is it now all so small in comparison...?

Someone the other day was saying they heard a theory that the dinosaurs went extinct because they choked on their food and their arms were too short to give each other the Heimlich manuever.

My thought was more along the lines of, what if something changed in earth's environment so that it put the largest beings at a disadvantage... say the earth's gravity increased, or the earth's atmospheric pressure increased (now it's around 14.7 psi, unless you're at the top of Mount Everest or the bottom of the Mariana Trench)... a drastic environmental change such as this would affect the large animals drastically while being less of a burden for the small-massed animals.
For the dinosaurs this would be like putting on a few thousand pounds overnight or waddling around in a wet wool coat.
Has anyone looked (or is there a way to even find out) these sorts of things by looking at geologic record, or the fossil record, or any other kind of record...?

Maybe the dinosaurs were just 'squeezed' out of existence. Like the increased pressure just slowed them down to a crawl and they couldn't hunt, or eat, or wallow their way out of the LaBrea Tar Pits.

I don't know much about these questions, but one interesting thing I have learned that is that species such as the beaver exsisted as both 'giant' versions: say about eight feet long, 480 pounds, and with six inch long buck teeth; there is a skeleton in the St. Paul Science Museum, which was found near St. Paul, MN and also one in Chicago's Bell Museum,  and also alongside their equivalent species which were about the size of the animals that enhabit the planet today.
The smaller animals in the species eventually won out. Why? It was put to me that the smaller versions were more manueverable, more adaptable, and could exist without need for a larger habitat, larger trees, etc.

It seems strange to me that both sizes of the same species would overlap in part of the same period of the fossil record though.
In my hypothetical scenario of increased physical pressure, a smaller animal would have a distinct advantage. It would not be as affected by gravity, or the atmospheric downpressure.
A large animal would be sluggish and suffer the crushing forces more and more over time...

Along these lines, have scientists ever tried to figure out if the earths gravity HAS changed over the duration of it's exsistance? Even beyond postulating about animal adaptations, this would be an interesting thing to check out in it's own right. If a goodly-sized comet hit the earth 65 million years ago, did the resulting divet reduce the mass of the earth enough to change it's gravity enough to measure?

Did the resultant dust and ash cloud change the earth's atmospheric pressure enough to be measurable?
Could it have changed it for the rest of it's existance from then on...?
Just a few questions that keep me up at four in the morning that I'm throwing out there, as I don't know the answers.
I wouldn't be surprised if they are embarassingly preposterous. Well, embarrasingly preposterous for anyone else to ask, but for me, merely preposterous.
I still think they are worth asking. Even if they are preposterous, I won't be emabarrased, I ask stupid stuff all the time.
So, all of you Paleo-philosphophical anthropological meterological geologists, help me out here so I can sleep, please.




I'm crushing your head. Crush, crush.

March 13, 2010 - Signage

Hey! No peeing in the alley!
Normally I would think they meant parking, but this was right behind the wine shop.


All right, all you evacuees, I want a nice, tight line. You call that a line?! That's unacceptable! Send them back to Shipping & Recieving. Ugh!


So you're wandering around for hours with your dog and camera while the car repair guys are 'repairing' your car (actually they're just damaging your wallet with an air hammer, and not repairing your car at all). They told you it would be an hour, so you think maybe an hour and a half tops. You bring the dog to kill two birds with one stone, get in a dog walk while your waiting, down by the majestic Mississippi River in near flood stages, and by the Ford plant down the street from the car place. Ironically enough, your car is actually a Ford, and you don't know whether to flip the buidling off and curse it each time you walk by the place, or just look the other direction.
You wander back up by the car place after an hour and hey, your car is in the garage. That's a good thing. Or is it? It would be better if it was back outside and parked in a different spot. You walk on. Down a sidestreet. Down some alley past kicked in TV sets and the cigarette butts behind the VFW. Up some street that you just walked down. People in houses are peering through their blinds at you. Dogs bark muffled barks somewhere deep inside.
You're trying not to look at your watch, but when you do, it's just like at the doctors office, we're now clicking over two hours.
You're walking around carrying bags of poop because it's 'spring' and they haven't put all the trash barrels out yet (or maybe budget cuts just removed them completely, why waste money on waste?), and since you have the time you're letting your dog sniff every leaf, tree, and disgusting patch of snow that is left after a long winter of people not cleaning up after themselves or their dogs, and wondering about the purpose of life.
You can't find a place to sit down because the pervasive mist that has been clinging to everything like a fart that won't go away for the last three days has left all horizontal surfaces wet and at a steady 42 degrees F. You think of street people. You could be a street person. You have no car and no place to be. You can't go into a store, you can't sit down, and maybe can't pay the car bill. Hmmm.
Let's go back down by the river.
Looking very closely, you start to see signs of life. The tiniest of the tiny pussy-willow tops are just barely starting to cap through the buds. It's almost a relief.

Still, the signs of winter's decay are everywhere. The buckthorn berries that most of the animals know better than to eat (a powerful laxative, even for caterpillars) have rotted on the vine. There's something incongrous about those glossy mal-formed wet black berries with their perfectly formed water droplets reflecting the fence behind them. Even decay can have it's redeeming qualities, I guess.
 
What looked like a branch that was extremely chewed-on by rabbits from a distance turned out upon closer inspection to be a branch with what I believe is called "spray-paint" or Crustose lichen. I could be wrong about this, it could also be one of the Squamulose lichens, or others, there are a lot of lichens, and I'm not an expert. Some require a microscope for absolute ID. It was interesting though, because earlier I did see some branches that were gnawed by rabbits, and I was at first trying to figure out what type of tree they were eating. Looked like a maybe type of cherry, or low-bush berry shrub. At first I couldn't figure out what could have been eating the bark so high up on the tree, it was like three feet above the ground. No deer around here. Then a collection of rabbit pellets made me realize that snow had been that high or higher at it's peak, perfect for lounging and munching by our friends in the genus Sylvilagus or 'Cottontail.'

More wandering and staring blankly brings us to the Ford Hydro Dam, once used to primarily power the Ford automtive plant, still used, but not to the previous capacity.
It is said that it was placed in this spot along the river to be close to the pure white sand that was eventually made into Ford windshields on the premises.
There is an old turbine on display at one of the pull-offs from the Parkway, an intriguiging hunk of iron, probably put on display there because they couldn't drag it any further.
It has helical fins with these intersting 'wear-patterns' in about the same place on all of them. I wish they would talk about them on their sign.
It seems like they are at a point of maximum friction on the wheel, it has made these ornately shaped 'barbs' that are worn into the edge of the fins.

Perhaps they are from a weld, where there is a mix of materials, or just a pattern from the moving water and abrasives in the river water being forced to the outside, I don't know.
I have photographed this piece many times, both in black & white and color, and never seem to get exactly what my mind's eye sees.
I was surpised to see from the sign that it weighs 15 tons. It looks pretty svelt and I wouldn't have guessed it a pound over 2 or 3 tons.
The spot I like over here is this row that has these ancient spruces on one side, and oaks on the other. It's like a golf course fairway. The conifers have to be at least 50 feet high. We often see Peregrine falcons in the oaks here as they have nest boxes on the Ford plant's chimmey's nearby.
It's one of spots where you would never know you were in a big city. The busy Parkway is right on the other side of the tall trees.
Okay, after picking up a bunch of litter and off-loading that and my dog poop into the one recepticle I can find for miles, it's time to head back to the car place again. Fingers crossed... Yes! It's back outside, in a different spot.
I put Hap in the car, give him a treat and cringe my way through blaring daytime TV in the waiting area of the shop while I hurriedly put the damn thing on my credit card and get the hell out of there.
Hap is whupped, he has a treat and is collapsed on the seat next to me.
My back is sore from standing too much and carrying the camera pack. I drive away.
And lo and behold, halfway over the Ford Bridge, my car begins making the same noise I had brought it in for yet again... Cars; adventures in entropy.
I flip off the Ford Plant and head for home.

March 6th, 2010 - Dormancy

Geez, talk about disenfranchised. Every time I think that I'm part of something, it turns out that it's actually "just down the road."
So now where does that leave me? Am I a 'Nawtheastana...?'

Anyway, as you may have noticed owing to the serious gap between postings (exactly a month, the shame. Cover my face to the paparazzi) that it looks as though things may have become, shall we say, 'a bit dormant' in the Infinite Universe.
The definition for dormancy is "a period in an organism's life cycle when growth, development, and (in animals) physical activity is temporarily stopped."  The beginning may be true, but I can assure you, the bit about physical activity is not. Again, harking back to my last post, we are in the middle of "The Great Move," which is taking us from Minneapolis to Milwaukee after bring planted, rooted, and seeded in the same house here in Minneapolis for eleven years.
I have been finding out every day for the last few weeks just how deeply embedded we actually were. The roots go down, down, down. As deep into the mini-storages, basements, and cobwebby closets of material possessions and things that 'seemed to be a good idea at the time' as you can go. I have devolved about as far back into a Cro-Magnon scrap-dealing, metal-hauling, drooling hulk of a crazed shop-vacuuming hunchback as I can go, without becoming an invertebrate, which is probably my next stop along the de-evolutionary railroad line. That is if I even attempt to stand up straight and walk on two legs again, which I'm finding may not be all that efficient for this sort of thing anyway.
Just two people, various cats, and a dog in one house for eleven years wouldn't be bad, or I should say, would be bad enough, but when one of those people (yours truly) has a specialty photographic parts and service business involving several thousand pounds of um, 'metal stuff', a workshop, a bicycle obsession, a photography obsession, collections of various vinyl record albums, comic books, doo-dads and bric-a-brac, two libraries, and a pack-rat complex, all bets are off. Things multiply exponentially. Logarithmically. Repeatedly. Ludicrously.
Today I woke up thinking, "I wonder what our 'saturation density-factor' in this house actually was...?" I mean, it's a finite space right? It's not the Tardis. There is probably a 'saturation density-factor' for kitsch-hoarding little old ladies, and we were WAY past that. At what point do you become a solid?
Anyway, there has been a lot of moving involved in this move.
Even though I knew I would be paying the piper some day, I just never thought it would be for all my sins at once, but I guess that's how it works.
Enough about that. The mass-reduction goes on. I have until the end of March. Then the universe implodes. Sorry to ruin the surprise for you.
On the 'up side', the shifting about of the tectonic plates of personal crap has scared the dog but freed up both space and materials to consolidate various pieces of furniture into a new desk for myself.
Since Sharon has decided to break from the herd and get her OWN DESK, (some cheap piece of Target junk or the like, that I will most likely end up assembling and cursing the whole time, see, this is what I have become) I took this opportunity to create my own custom-made, 'Desk To End All Desks' (hey, that's "DEAD" heh) as it's been called by Hannah, the volunteer at the Wood Lake Candlelit Ski Nights when she heard tell of my plan.
Since I am giving up my current glorious workshop in our move to the new ignominious apartment compartment, I am trying to take any opportunities 'in my free time' to get my last sawing, pounding, and mess-making in before I turn back into an apartment-dweller again.
So here is the latest morph of my 'ultimate desk' (with what I currently have to work with.)
It's actually (at least) three pieces of furniture cobbled into 'one'. It began as a two computer work table that Sharon and I shared, I built it to fit the wall space and to have both of our desktops side-by-side.
Here you can roughly see it in the background. It's that big flat thing with all the stuff on it. No, not THAT one, the one behind that. It served the purpose pretty well, but I had always visualized building the ultimate computer desk as sort of a retro-throwback to a roll-top desk, with the pigeonholes and cabinetry made to fit a computer setup and brought into the 21st century. With a roll-top to keep the dust off the monitor, and cats and visiting children out of my stuff and everything.
I later found that you can buy unfinished pre-made roll-top louvered assemblies from woodworking places to make your own roll-top desk, and ultimately, this is what I would like to do, given a blank check and all the time and space in the world to build it.
For now, this is what I came up with:

(#1) I cut down the old table and contoured the front so that I could roll my office chair in further, enabling me to put my feet up on the rear cross-piece during typing, regardless of chair height, a crucial requirement. To this cross-piece footrest I added two inches of Ensolite high-density campmat foam (#2), for barefoot comfort. I rounded off the corners of the desktop (#3). I don't know why I didn't do this earlier, I think because I wanted to get away with just putting a straight piece of wooden molding across the front instead of some type of flexible desk edging, which can be problematic and what is really the missing link right now.
I also cut apart this weird army green shelving unit (#4) that we used to store cassette tapes in, (I know, cassette tapes, look it up if you don't know what they are, kids) this was a cool thing I bought at a thrift store a long time ago that was full of pigeonholes for the keys to an entire insurance company on one side (at least that's what it says on the bottom) and nice straight, narrow shelves, perfect for tapes on the other.
Basically I cut it in half, flipped around one side to create an upright that is half pigeonholes and half straight shelves, and bolted that whole mess to the new desktop with 1/2" threaded rod, hidden from view due to the cool nature of the depth of the shelving.
I also chopped up an ancient three-tiered drawer unit (#5) that came from the parts department of the local Montgomery Wards store (look it up) that my dad worked at in Ashland, Wisconsin for over half of his life.
This I inset into the drawn-in framework of the old table, so that it sits directly on the floor. This is nice as it adds to the stability of the whole rig, and you can pull out the entire cabinet assembly separately to move the desk without moving added weight of the cabinet, or to get easy access to the back for wiring, etc., something that always pisses me off about furniture for computers: it's never easy to get at the crucial wiring and make changes to your machines without crawling into a little cave and smashing your head on something or necessitating taking the whole thing apart.
Cursed things. This got me thinking that I should also swap my computer over to the left side so that the side of the CPU box that opens is exposed, so I did that (#6). It's weird to turn your computer on with your left hand after years of turning it on with your right, but hey, it's for the greater good.
To add some final functionality, I of course designed it to put my scanner and printer within handy reach without compromising  too much desktop space (#7)(god help me if we ever buy new equipment), and included my usual little custom doodad hangers for the iPod charger cable, cell-phone charger, camera-battery charger, charger-charger, etc. (#8)
Not shown are the power outlet strips implanted along the bottom framework, and bolted down because I hate when you pull a plug out and 19 other things get yanked off of the desk with it, and the mouse hole in the center of everything cut big enough to pass any size cable and connector through to avoid those "hey, I got a new gizmo, I'd really like to plug it in but it won't fit through the friggin' desktop hole" moments. I also offset the tabletop hole with the hole in the cubbys, so that you're not looking down at your toenails.
It ain't exactly a Spanish Colonial oak masterpiece, but at least it's the beginning of form following my function.
Next time, I'm bringing out the spindles and parquetry.