Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Everything is Broken

Broken plate, ca. 1890
My favorite thing to do is to fix something that has broken.  I love saving something from the discard pile and breathing new life into it. Even better is watching it trundle off to make someone else's life better.

This has been on my mind because everything seems to be breaking lately.  The water main, my laptop, the fence, and now even the water heater needs attention.

When I was a kid, my little brother and sister would receive cheap electric toys that broke almost immediately. So I started collecting wire, batteries, and motors from older broken toys and using them to fix the latest batch of broken toys.

Over at FreeGeek Chicago, I take apart old computers, replace worn parts, and install new operating systems, and then I get to see those repaired old machines help out the neighborhood, close the digital divide, and reduce electronic waste.

When I lived in Madison, WI, I stumbled onto how easy it is to find and repair broken propane and charcoal grills and then sell them on Craigslist. I did that in my spare time one summer and those grills paid for my February Mexican vacation that year.

My wife owns a 20+ year old Sanyo rice cooker, she grew up with it as a part of her mother's kitchen.  A few years ago, it stopped reliably cooking rice, so we acquired a Black and Decker rice cooker to replace it, but it sparked and died after a few months of service.  I took them both apart and found that the temperature switch in the old Sanyo had died, but the same part in the Black and Decker was in pristine shape, so I swapped out the parts and revived the old rice cooker. 7 years and three house moves later, it still makes rice perfectly.

Broken bottles, broken plates,
Broken switches, broken gates,
Broken dishes, broken parts,
Streets are filled with broken hearts.
Broken words never meant to be spoken,
Everything is broken.
     -Everything is Broken, Kenny Wayne Shepherd