New Knots


Earlier in the pandemic i had a minor panic when my cordless drill batteries were all losing their ability to hold a charge. that's a pretty regular low-tier anxiety but coupled with all the other stuff, well I just decided to get a new drill. Sometimes you need to gather low-hanging fruit just to get it out of the way. Or to put it another way, sometimes you need to eat a snack to give you the energy to cook a meal. Anyway I looked around online for a good cheap cordless drill until I realized that 1., a cheap one is just going to break again, 2., I don't really need a cordless drill, how much is the non-cordless kind? and 3., wow, a decent corded drill is like $40. So I just got a corded drill, and I have no regrets. I don't have to worry about the batteries ever running out. I do have to worry about the extension cord getting tangled though, and that's the subject of today's inquiry.


Everyone's got their own way of dealing with extension cords, with the most popular and also worst ways being (in order) no way at all, and regular way (coiling it up). Regular way is OK but how do you keep it from getting tangled when you throw it in a milk crate or whatever? I messed with a lot of solutions to this- wire ties, velcro strips, etc., and while those solutions are fine for smaller-gauge cords like guitar cables, they didn't work well with the heft of the heavy-duty extention cord. So my current way is to pre-tangle it, with a chain stitch. It looks like this:

and here's a color-coded version that maybe makes the chain stitch easier to understand-- loops being pulled through loops:

longer cords can be doubled up first, like this:


It only takes a second to do, doesn't require a tie (that you will definitely lose), comes apart immediately (just undo the very last knot and pull) and most ingeniously, can't get more tangled up. By chain stitching it in this way you're effectively knitting it into a shorter thicker cord, one that's floppy but basically too short to tie itself in a knot. It looks like a mess but it's pretty clean, very easy to work with. And if you don't need the full length of cord, you can just undo as much as you need and leave the rest all knotted up.

I'll link to a video at the bottom but maybe you can figure out how to do it from the picture, or just from messing around-- basically you just make a loop and pull a loop through it, then pull a loop through that.

I don't think this is the best way for everyone-- some people may really require things to appear neat, and some may need things to pack neatly into a small volume. But for me, this is pretty ideal.

The only real problem with this method is, if you're like me and you're always trying to apply the lessons or structures of one domain onto the problems or forms of another, you might wonder how else you can pre-tangle things in your life. But I really think this trick is limited to extention cords, with no intellectual or emotional component.


After talking about lacing my shoes a few weeks ago a reader sent me a link to a really great shoelace website, and I realized that there was some improvement to be made, not in the way I was lacing my shoes, but in the way I was tying them. Honestly, my shoelace knot has been unexamined and executed thoughtlessly since I first learned how, in kindergarten or whatever. Well this whole time I was making a granny knot, not the preferred reef knot.

via Ian's Shoelace Site (link below):

  • The Granny Knot is the most common reason that shoelaces loosen or come undone;

  • It's caused when the Starting Knot & Finishing Bow don't "balance" each other;

  • It can be spotted by the tendency of the bow to sit crooked (ie. heel to toe);

  • It's fixed by reversing one stage of the knot – most easily the Starting Knot;

  • The result is a neat, balanced shoelace bow that keeps your laces tied.

here's the granny knot, a shit-show:

and here's the reef knot-- balanced, harmonious:

the only difference is that the reef knot alternates the direction of the top and bottom knots.

The Granny knot isn't "bad" so much as less than ideal. I've been tying my shoes like this for almost 40 years without ever taking any significant damage. But as soon as I tried it the other way, I was like "ahhhh, it's supposed to go like thiiiiis!". Harmonious.

Now it's a trial each time to stop the muscle memory in my hands from making a granny knot, and instead to make a reef knot (also called a square knot). I think the main thing I'm getting out of it is not increased shoelace efficiency, but just the awareness that I can change something so deeply seated, something I've done at least 26,000 times (twice a day since age 5).

Emotions Month

In December 2019 we painted the living room, which isn't really a big deal, but by accident (it didn't really occur to me until later) we painted it the exact same color as the bedroom I grew up in. At first I was like "huh, that's interesting", then it started to feel positively eerie, then it blossomed into a sort of pulsating psychic bruise.

Not only was the color very similar but the geometry of the room was the same as my old bedroom-- the roof cuts into the wall on one side, giving a diagonal transition from wall to ceiling. But the craziest little detail is that the living room is bigger than my old bedroom, but I'm bigger now too, so it feels the same, proportionally-- from my perspective, the ceiling and walls are the same distance away. What I mean is that the feeling isn't just "I'm in my childhood bedroom", it's "I'm in my childhood bedroom, and I'm 12". It's fucked.

Well I tried to just forget about it, or deal with it quickly, but it really took me back, and persistantly so, in a way that was not pleasant. Not that my childhood was especially traumatic, but growing up is tough, I have to assume that's universal. Shit gets piled on you and you have to figure out what to do, and those decisions can have a long shadow sometimes. Suddenly getting thrown back there through interior design was jarring to say the least, and as an adult cast back into this childhood environment I had an extra layer of shame-- it seemed unreasonable that this room color was affecting me this much. But it was tho!

So in an attempt to neither brush it off or sink into it, I decided to try and embrace it, and started calling that December "Emotions Month". And I made a deal that if I still felt terrible at the end of the month, we could repaint. Well I'm sure you can see where this is going-- the whole experience ended up being pretty helpful. Ultimately it was nice to be back in that space, to have another chance at the feelings about the feelings. Instead of remembering feeling depressed and confused, or feeling remorse at these reactions, just feeling compassion for the little guy that lived there. I even made us this friendship bracelet, for me now and me as a kid:

This is still on my wrist from December 2019-- my strong feeling is that you have to wear these until they fall off.

I'm not going to put up instructions on how to make a bracelet like this, you'll just have to look it up. But I want to point out a minor detail that I never did consciously before-- I purposefully introduced a small error. The colors go in a certain order and then at one point I just swapped two adjacent strings. So it's the same strings the whole way through but the pattern is different at the end. You'd probably never even notice. I did this on purpose but I wasn't really thinking about "I'm changing my patterns" or whatever, I just wanted to have a small detail that wasn't obvious, some proof that a person made it, not a machine or a business. Something wrong but OK. I think I'm going to do it like that from now on.

Other events from Emotions Month:

  • Went to a show in the bar section of Coney Island Hot Dogs -- I love Coney Island Hot Dogs and I went there a lot when I was a kid, but I pretty much stopped when I went vegetarian in my late teens. But I had only ever been to the restaurant side, never the bar side. The two sides are connected by a doorless threshhold, and though I peered into the dim and mysterious bar side a million times as a kid, I never set foot in there until Funeral Cone played a weird gig there on Emotions Month. It was great, and the crowd was a dreamlike combination of people from my life. I got a ride in with Melissa Number One, Nick's mom was there, plus Matt H and his kids, and Eric YF was working at the bar. I broke veg and got 3 all the way for old times sake, plus a half a sour pickle and 2 beers.

  • Went to the doctor for a checkup for probably the second time in 20 years -- No problem.

  • Got my picture taken with Santa -- OK I never ever would've done this but it was Al as Santa (revisiting her inspired Halloween costume from a year earlier) and it wasn't at a mall or anything, it was at a party at the Dirt Palace. I don't think I even did this as a kid! I wish Al would revisit her other great Halloween costumes for similar photo ops, I'd love to go to an event and have my picture taken with Mozart. I would also welcome Hercules, Cruella deVille or even "woman from Boston".

  • I got denied two grants for the same project, for opposite reasons. One group said "you need to do more of this kind of thing" and the other one was like "there's too much". As noted, I'm not on the grants tip, and though this was frustrating it was also kind of a relief to get a little proof that that world is one of neither reason nor emotion, but one of fealty to shifting criteria and context.

  • Cool Breeze visited and we drove to our old hometown and ate at two of our favorite restaurants, then we walked around and told stories to Lizzy Photo. It was fun and eventually we all said "OK, let's get the fuck out of here", which felt great.

links / misc

  • Here's the extension cord video, I think I got to this via a previous video this guy did called How The Pros Use String, or something like that. [youtube]

  • Ian's Shoelace Website is like an all-time great website-- a labor of love, helpful but not preachy, and with years of accumulated tweaks. If you're interested in shoe laces or beauitful websites, this is the page for you. Includes extensive notes on "the Ian knot". [link]

  • Tom's art show in the grand ballroom is opening Thursday April 8 at 1pm. I know I talked about this last week but I wanted to mention it again this week because I know some people don't read these until a week later sometimes, and I wouldn't want them to read next week's post two weeks from now, and realize they missed the event. The show will be open for a while but the opening is on the 8th at 1pm, with a reception down by the pond.

  • I didn't think about this till just now but I guess this is why I'm thinking about string this week.

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