Review of the Scotch Advanced Thermal Laminator: Don't try this at home

Now that I've played with the Scotch Advanced Thermal Laminator for a while, I kind of want everyone who needs things laminated to come to my house and let me do it for them. It's fast. It's fun. It's easy. It does a good job. The sleeve you put your stuff in adheres not only at the edges but all over the item, so that you can cut off all edging and have, say, a perfectly laminated bookmark with no overhang. So, five stars, Scotch, on this great product.
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That said, make sure you use it as directed. A morality tale:

My daughter came home from college (yes, throwing her under the bus here), eyed our new lamination station, and got busy. First it was regular stuff. A test paper, a bookmark. Then it got more intense. She broke out her box of dried flowers and quickly put together a collage, cranked the thickness of the laminator up to 5mm, and ran it through. The result: not bad. And then I left the room.

In my absence she decided to experiment by putting a couple small dabs of paint in a sleeve and running it through. The result was a laminated sleeve with long streaks of paint running the length of it. And--you may have guessed it by now--paint got inside the machine.

She figured, reasonably enough, that she could get rid of the paint by feeding sleeveless paper through the machine. Perhaps after doing that a number of times, the paint would be pretty much gone and regular lamination could continue, but things went from bad to worse: the paper checked in, but it didn't check out. It was stuck inside, crammed into a very small space on the exit side of the rollers. We tried using various tools to get it out, but it soon became clear that we'd have to expose the innards of the machine if there was any hope of clearing the paper jam.

With some misgivings, we took off the cover and spent a fair amount of time trying to get the paper out. Knives were introduced, tweezers, paper clips. Nothing worked. And after quite a long time we decided that taking off the cover wasn't enough. At this point, I had pretty much given up on the idea that we'd ever get the laminator working again. Taking things apart is easy, but there's a lot that can go wrong when it comes to putting them back together. Nonetheless, I further disassembled the laminator. There was a lot of dried paint in it, more than we'd expected. We chipped it off where we could. But even at this point, it wasn't an easy thing to get to that jammed paper. I wound up having to pry a piece of metal back and then finally, finally, I was able to pull out the paper, which the machine had folded into a very tight fan, each of its accordion fins only a few millimeters wide.

I reassembled the laminator. To my astonishment, and with the sweet stench of burning acrylic heralding its success, it spat out a laminated test sheet--perfect but for needing to be wiped free of melted paint. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a working laminator.

The moral of this story is, be careful what you stick in the machine. Probably you won't try running paint through it, so you're in the clear there. But this woeful tale does point to what is arguably a flaw. Should someone accidentally insert a sleeveless piece of paper into the laminator--and I can see this happening--there is very little chance that that paper is going to come out again. There is no easy way of clearing a paper jam. Perhaps there should be.

Loom knit fingerless mittens in figure 8 stitch (pattern)

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The mittens are modeled here by my beautiful daughter, who is 13.

These fingerless mittens are made with a ribbed cuff and a body in figure 8 stitch. Fits adults/teens. The size can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of stitches cast on. (Make sure that the total number of pegs cast on is divisible by four so the rib stitch will work.) You can also make the gloves longer by increasing the number of rows knit in figure 8 before and/or after the thumb hole (rows 17 and 18 below).



Loom: Knitting Board Sock Loom 2 or AllnOne Loom.

Knitting tool: Any will do, but I really love the orange Knitting Board's Knit Hook because it's so comfortable to hold.

Yarn: Sample was made with one strand of Patons Classic Wool in light grey marl, worsted weight (#4). One ball (3.5 oz.) is more than enough for a pair of mittens.

Tapestry needle



Cast on: CO 28 pegs using the double e-wrap cast on. (See the tutorial by GoodKnit Kisses:

Rows 1-10: P2, K2 (K = e-wrap throughout)

Ribbed cuff on Sock Loom 2. I've marked the pegs to be
purled using Avery Color Coding Labels.


Rows 11-16: Figure 8 (F8) stitch. (See the tutorial by GoodKnit Kisses:

Row 17: F8 pegs 1-9 (so that your working yarn finishes coming from peg 9; this means you will wrap and knit over peg 10); bind off pegs 10-14 (see below); your yarn is now coming from peg 15; F8 peg 15 (this differs from the usual F8 because you are only advancing one peg instead of two, thus wrapping pegs 15 and 16); F8 pegs 16-28.

Pegs 10-14:

K pegs 10 and 11, move loop on 11 to 10, knit over, move loop to 11
K peg 12, move loop on 12 to 11, knit over, move loop to 12
K peg 13, move loop on 13 to 12, knit over, move loop to 13
K peg 14, move loop on 14 to 13, knit over, move loop to 14
K peg 15, move loop on 15 to 14, knit over, move loop to 15



 When row 17 is finished, pegs 10-14 don't have any loops.

Row 18: F8 all pegs. (You won't knit over pegs 10-14 until they have two loops on them.)

Rows 19-24: F8.

Bind off: BO using super stretchy bind off. (See the tutorial by Hypnotic Hysteria: Weave in ends.


The finished pair.


Tags: loom knitting, knitting, knit, figure 8 stitch, fingerless mittens, fingerless gloves, pattern, tutorial

Review of Bissell's CleanView Complete Pet Bagless Upright Vacuum

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 10.58.07 AMBissell's CleanView upright vacuum has both good and bad points, which I'll address individually below.


-- The vacuum's principal plus is that it offers some powerful suction, both when the carpet sweeper is engaged and when vacuuming with the hose. It's been a delight sucking up dust from remote corners. (The vacuum is new, however, and its performance may falter over time.)

-- The vacuum has a suction power indicator that tells you when its suction is compromised. If the indicator shows green, all is well, but red means that you've got a blockage or other problem somewhere. This happened to me the other day. The vacuum was working fine, so far as I could see, but I noticed that the indicator had turned to red. I checked for blockages but didn't see any, and the suction coming through the hose was fine. So then I checked the filters. It turned out that the pre-motor filter (which pretty much just looks like a sponge) was already covered with dust. I took it out and manually removed the dust from the filter. When I put it back in, the indicator turned green right away. Thing is, given that the vacuum was performing well, I would never have thought to check the filter at this stage, so having the indicator actually served a purpose.

-- You can turn off the rotating brush on this machine. This is great because it means that when you're using the hose the vacuum brush isn't still rotating, chewing up your floor.

-- Cord rewind. This may be a standard feature on uprights these days, but I'm underscoring it anyway because I find it to be so incredibly handy.

-- Accessing the vacuum's filters and removing the inner cyclone from the dirt tank are easy, which makes maintenance easier. (But see below re. access to the floor brush.)

-- The flexible hose disconnects easily from the back of the machine. This is great because it makes it easy to check for and clear clogs.

-- Most of the vacuum's parts store firmly on the machine, but the triangular edge tool doesn't have a storage spot. I don't know why you'd offer a tool as standard and then not provide a storage spot on the machine for it.


-- The flexible hose is extremely stiff and, given its stiffness, not long enough to use comfortably. If you attach the extension wand and crevice tool to the hose--the maximum length you can obtain with the accessories that ship with the vacuum--you can't reach a standard-height ceiling without having to exert some force to stretch the hose. This may not sound like much, but if you're doing a lot of reaching with the hose, it can become tiring quickly. Another downside is that while pulling on the hose you're also pulling the vacuum cleaner. If you don't hold the vacuum with one hand it will topple over, which can be dangerous if you're vacuuming around breakable objects. I ordered two extension wands from Bissell's site (they're $3.50 each plus shipping) so that I can extend the length of the hose and make future jobs a little easier, but of course those now have to be stored off the machines.

-- The vacuum has a very wide footprint. That means that while it would be great for cleaning big rooms, it doesn't fit around furniture and get into tight spaces as well as a smaller vacuum would.

--The Bissell is very hard to push--even with the carpet setting on its lowest setting--when compared with my old vacuum (a Hoover Wind Tunnel). Just pushing the vacuum around one or two rooms turns into a bit of a workout.

-- I mentioned the suction indicator above. I was surprised that the pre-motor filter had to be cleaned after I'd only used the vacuum three times. (Admittedly, that third vacuuming job was a doozy.) Fortunately, the filter wasn't difficult to clean.

-- When vacuuming, balls of dust easily get stuck above the inner cyclone inside the dirt tank. That means removing the inner cyclone will probably be necessary pretty often when you're emptying the tank. Fortunately, this isn't hard to do.

-- As mentioned above, the triangular edge tool does not have a storage spot on the machine.

-- In order to get to the floor brush--which you have to do sometimes to clean it or to replace the belt--you have to remove seven screws. This is a great nuisance. One of the great pluses of my old vacuum (again, the Hoover Wind Tunnel) is that you can access the belt and brush without using a screwdriver at all. It's fantastically convenient.


In sum, the Bissell offers good suction and for the most part is well-designed, with easily accessible filters, on-board storage for most of the tools, and a flexible hose that detaches easily from the machine. The suction indicator and on/off switch for the brush are also nice features. The vacuum is hard to push, however, has an inconveniently large footprint, and its stiff flexible hose makes using the hose with the crevice tool or other attachment a chore.

Instagram picture, September 25, 2015 at 09:22PM

I finished this today, Robert Galbraith (i.e., J.K. Rowling), The Silkworm. I really like the series and was happy to learn it's going to be made into a BBC miniseries. #jkrowling #robertgalbraith #cormoranstrike

via Instagram


My girls with their aunt at Connecticut College yesterday.

via Instagram


When in doubt, LIE

I've just come up with a new rule of thumb:

When in doubt about whether you should use the verb "lie" or "lay," use "lie."

What's the deal?

"Lay" is a transitive verb, which means that it takes an object. That is, you have to lay or lay down something--a book, a card, your arms, or yourself as in, "Now I lay me down to sleep...."
"Lie," on the other hand, is intransitive. There's no direct object. You lie down, or you impatiently tell your kids or your dog or your neighbor to lie down.
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This is wrong!

The confusion comes in because the past tense of "lie" happens to be "lay." So you might say, "Yesterday I lay down on the couch." Or, if you want to shake up the old cliché, "George Washington lay here."

But seriously, how many times in your life have you had occasion to refer to the fact that someone was lying down at some point in the past? And of those occasions, how many times have you just used the perfectly acceptable "was lying" rather than "lay"?

I contend that most of us need to use the past tense of "lie" so rarely that we should act as if we never have to. You will almost never go wrong using "lie" when you're not sure about which verb to use.* And if you're like most people, you'll almost certainly make fewer mistakes using "lie" as your go-to verb than you're making now.

* I'm not worried about people suddenly starting to say "lie" when they should say "lay": "Lie down your arms!" Most people don't have trouble using the transitive verb "lay" correctly.

On buying Taylor Swift tickets -- 1989 tour

For the last hour before they go on sale I'm at my computer with the Ticketmaster page open, doing other stuff. Then when it gets closer to the time I shut down other programs except my browser, lest they freeze and slow things up. The last ten minutes in particular are tense. Finally the countdown reaches zero and the page automatically reloads to something else, except it takes forever to do it. Then finally there's a page where you have to input the special code we got by email and it works the first time but the page doesn't. I input it again and it DOESN'T work and I'm worried that this is it: we'll never get the tickets. I input it again and again and again, and finally it's accepted. Then I input how many tickets I need and I select "best available" and it starts working. There's also a captcha at some point, which is hard enough on the best of days, let alone now. Then loading, loading, loading, and finally there's a timer telling how long the wait is, and it bounces around from 10 minutes to 5 to 15 to 9 to 4 and finally, after maybe a half hour of all this, the page loads and I'm offered tickets. I have two minutes to accept them and all the while I'm terrified my computer will just cut out. I accept them, but then I have to pay for them, and there's another timer, and I'm glad that I made an account the other day because inputting my credit card number would be hard right now. I hit submit, but it tells me I haven't put in the CCV code. More time is passing. My computer could still die at any moment: it did the other day, three times in a row, so this isn't (just) me being paranoid. I hit submit, and it says it has to take me offsite for Visa to verify the card. Jesus God! This is more time with the clock ticking and God knows whether there will be a problem with the new site and I'll have to start over. But the site loads and the card is verified and I choose the various options--print at home delivery, no charitable donation. And finally I've got the tickets, and I keep checking and rechecking to make sure that I've bought the right number, right stadium, right date. It's all good.

My review of our Whirlpool refrigerator; or, am I being muzzled?

So, here's the background. In May we bought a new Whirlpool refrigerator, and it was delivered on May 30th. It's mostly been great, but there are a couple of problems. I addressed one of these in a review I submitted to Home Depot's site--where we'd bought the refrigerator. About a week ago, I got an email from Whirlpool inviting me to review my recent appliance purchase, so I dusted off the Home Depot review and updated it with remarks about the second issue. I submitted the review on the site and that was that. Or, that would have been that if I hadn't just received another email from them:

Our staff has read your review and values your contribution even though it did not meet all our website guidelines. Thanks for sharing, and we hope to publish next time!

Thanks again,
Perplexing. I went to the site to see what these mysterious website guidelines might be, but I didn't see anything. Specifically, when I clicked through as though to write a new review there was no link to any guidelines that I could see. Then I clicked the "contact customer service with questions or concerns" link at the bottom of the email, but it just led me to Whirlpool's main site. There's a support form there, but I didn't feel like filling it out (again; see below), in part because I suspect they would be unlikely to provide any meaningful information about the status of my review. Their operators are likely primed to deal with questions about the refrigerator's operation rather than the website's operation.

So why was it rejected? I jumped to the conclusion that it's because my review is somewhat negative, but I saw at least one negative review on the site while looking for guidelines. If it's not that--and that sort of selectivity would make me angry--I can't imagine what the problem is.

At any rate, I am of course posting my review below, with a photo, because information wants to be free, and I take it ill when my voice is muted.

Great features, but buyer beware

Overall, the refrigerator is great. It's roomy and the layout is great. The shelves both in the fridge and in the doors are nicely designed. The freezer is big and easy to access. I'm really very happy with the purchase. However, be very careful if you decide to buy this with a stainless steel surface. Seventeen days into my purchase I noticed that the left door was very scratched up. No, no one had been scraping it with anything. What happened was I had two refrigerator magnets on the door holding up an envelope. They weren't being moved or scraped across the surface by anyone, but they must have moved around a bit when the door was opened and closed.

As you can imagine, I was quite upset when I discovered this. What bothers me particularly is that there was no warning anywhere in the packet of materials we get that magnets shouldn't be used on this surface. I actually wrote to Whirlpool about this to complain, but got nowhere. I can't believe that they can sell something that will be damaged by the slightest use of magnets--which everybody uses--and not provide a warning to customers. This thing wouldn't survive a day in a house with young kids. Basically, if you buy the stainless steel version, you can never hang anything up on the front. (Happily, the surface on the side is different, so we're able to hang stuff up there.)

So, consider yourself warned. If I'd known this prior to buying I would have stuck with white.

UPDATE: There's an issue we've experienced in which the freezer sometimes loses cold. Ice cream starts to melt, for example. It's not clear what's going on, whether it's because a lot of food has recently been added or if this is somehow related to the appliance's self-defrosting mechanism. It eventually seems to correct itself, but it's troubling.



It Was a Dark and Stormy Tweet

I've got a new book out in Kindle and paperback versions! Announcing:

It Was a Dark and Stormy Tweet
Five Hundred 1st Lines in 140 Characters or Less

Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

Debra Hamel has been tweeting the first lines of books since 2007. To date, she has posted more than 7000 first lines on her Twitter accounts @TwitrLit and @KidderLit. IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET is a collection of 500 of the best of these. The first lines in this collection are culled from a wide variety of genres and from children’s books as well as books written for adults. Some of the titles excerpted will be familiar to readers. The first lines of Fahrenheit 451 and Slaughterhouse Five are included, for example, and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens both merit mentions. But readers will find a lot here that’s unfamiliar. The book is intended to introduce readers to new books and authors, so that they’ll come away from the collection itching to get their hands on an armful of new titles. Here’s a sample:

"Benny Rhodes loved his own bald head more than anything else in the world he could think of." (John A. Miller, Coyote Moon)

"I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday." (John Scalzi, Old Man's War)

"A dead man fell from the sky, landing at my feet with a thud." (Gary Corby, The Pericles Commission)

The lines included in this collection are grouped into different categories, with chapters such as “Once Upon a Time,” “Dead People,” and “Pregnant Amish Men and Other Surprises.” The book also includes three quizzes so that readers can test their first-line savvy.

Steps in, but worn out

I left my steps until far too late in the day tonight. Still, I managed to finish. Now I'm sitting at my computer waiting until I have enough energy to climb the stairs.


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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of The History. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

From a random review:

The Sunday