Saturday, April 30, 2005


A friend of mine has been captivated by the Text Monkey for years. He wrote his own Text Monkey program on an Apple II computer and I think he still runs it. The Text Monkey takes regular text and scrambles the letters, but it uses the frequency distribution of the letters in the sample text to produce Monkey words that look like real words, and a lot of real words, too. The game we played was to take a Monkey word and give it a definition.

Fralrescroblem: FRAL reh scrob lem, noun, A problem that you find yourself facing that is bigger or more complex than the problem that you originally set out to fix.

Example: You go out to change the spark plug in your lawnmower and snap the plug off in the engine block. You reset a circuit breaker in the garage and fry your stereo system. You go up into the attic to investigate a noise and end up crashing through the ceiling.

You get the idea.

So, I went out to a well known home improvement/furniture store, who's big blue and yellow store shall remain nameless, to buy a set of shelves for the home office. Simple, you'd think. I had seen the shelves in a catalog and thought they looked cool: Two chrome end brackets holding a thick shelf made of beech or birch.

What are the odds of going to a store like this and actually finding what you're looking for in stock? Zero, right? Well, the first red flag should have been that there were stacks and stacks of these shelves on the warehouse floor. Buyer's choice! Score!

I grabbed two 4-foot shelf boxes and headed to the check-out. In short order I was home and ready to install. Required tools: Phillips screwdriver. Great, my kind of installation.

I've installed shelves many times. I know that you need more than a Phillips screwdriver. You need a stud finder, level, drill for pilot holes and a tape measure to get the height right.

I went down to the garage, loaded up with tools and headed back to the study. Piece of cake, I was thinking. After unpacking all the parts I checked out the Installation Instructions. One page.

Install a bracket, left or right, it doesn't matter.
Drill holes for the second bracket.
Slip shelf into first bracket, then screw in second bracket.

Using my stud finder I located the first stud in the wall for Bracket A. I drilled the holes and mounted Bracket A. Then scanned across 48 inches and located the second stud, drilled the holes for Bracket B. OK, ready to go.

I slotted the shelf into Bracket A, picked up Bracket B and...something was short. Or long. Did I measure wrong? Was Bracket B too far out? Nope, the shelf was short.

I measured the shelf.


No, that can't be right. These are 4-foot shelves; 48 inches, not 46. I measured again.


Dread welled up into my throat from my boots. Frantically, I checked the box. Contents: 2 brackets, 5 mounting screws, 1 birch shelf (46")

What? Who would make a 46-inch shelf? Who in their right mind would make a 46-inch shelf? Wall studs are spaced at 16 inches. Three studs give you a 48-inch spacing. Not 46. Forty-six is stupid! Insane! Crazy! What I got.


I like to mount my shelves on wall studs, not in drywall. I thought through all the possibilities. Stretch the shelf. No. Move the brackets to the very edge of the studs. No. Take the shelves back for a refund. No. Mount half the shelf in the stud and the other half in the drywall. Compromise.

I went down to the garage to get some drywall plugs. No plugs. Trip to Lowes. Wrong size plugs. Second trip to Lowes. No drill bit the right size to mount drywall plugs. Avoid trip to Lowes by using a screwdriver to make holes in drywall. Finally mounted shelves, 16 hours later, and loaded them up with all my software books. Quite a load. I hope it holds.

To this day people ask me why I carry a tape measure on my belt. Well, I say, do you know what a fralrescroblem is?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We had the same thing happen with a wall-mounted table that we bought. My husband and I decided that their products aren't made for American houses. What other reason could they possible have?