Category Archives: Curiosities

Butter Bucket Brigade

I don’t just write my own blog here, I also read other blogs that interest me. One of my favorites is Musings From A Tangled Mind by Wendy Kowal. The subject matter is sometimes serious, sometimes lighthearted, and occasionally hilarious.

Yesterday there was a post there which discussed her mother’s use of “butter buckets” (my term) for storage of things other than the butter they originally contained. It rang true to me, since my family was also one where everything got re-used and re-purposed as possible. It also was hilarious because that apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

My father used coffee cans, butter buckets, baby food jars, and so on for storing all kinds of things in his workshop. (With eight kids, there were a LOT of baby food jars!) I remember him finding a design in Popular Mechanics or some similar magazine for a rotating rack that used baby food jars to store miscellaneous small nuts and bolts. He built it, with end pieces about the size of a bicycle wheel, and the horizontal spokes between them about two feet long. All of the spokes could swivel to stay upright, like the cars on a Ferris wheel do. Each spoke was a piece of wood about two inches wide and a half-inch thick, with about fifteen baby food jar lids nailed to the underside. The baby food jars containing the small parts would be pushed up and screwed into position, then the whole thing would rotate to bring different racks of jars into use. Sort of like a cross between a Ferris wheel and a vertically-oriented lazy Susan.

At least none of those baby food jars held anything that might be confused with baby food.

When I read Wendy’s article yesterday I immediately thought of how I do the same thing as her mother, but I do it more like my father did. I wanted to post a picture in my comment on her article, but I couldn’t. so I’ll put it here!

FullSizeRender (5)

On the bathroom counter next to my sink are, from left to right: a red Solo cup (which is actually orange), a slot machine change cup from Paris Las Vegas (from our honeymoon fifteen years ago), two butter buckets exactly like those in the picture that Wendy used yesterday, and an orange Halloween candy collection bucket that was a Kids’ Meal giveaway at least fifteen years ago.

In those various containers are pens, notes, scissors, old toothbrushes (they’re great for cleaning things), car keys, small tools, parts for bathroom repairs, a flashlight, old MP3 players, loose change, old headphones, key chains, batteries… You get the picture.

My favorite item, no doubt because it’s the weirdest and most out of place, is the New Year’s Eve party horn sticking out of the Paris Las Vegas cup. You never can tell when you might need something in the bathroom to go phweeEEEEEETTTTTTTT to celebrate something or spook the dog.

Wait, that didn’t come out right…

(NOW do you see why Ronnie’s earned the title of “The Long-Suffering Wife”?)


Filed under Castle Willett, Curiosities, Family, Paul

Forty Answers

  1. Paper
  2. Mary Ann
  3. Briefs
  4. Shower
  5. Xbox
  6. Facebook
  7. Science
  8. Summer
  9. Tom
  10. N’Sync
  11. Pen
  12. Digital
  13. DVR
  14. Dark
  15. Football
  16. Pizza Hut
  17. Dog
  18. Deaf
  19. E-mail
  20. NEITHER!
  21. Half full
  22. Gym
  23. Stick
  24. Texting
  25. Simple
  26. Silence
  27. Make
  28. Star
  29. CD’s
  30. South
  31. PM
  32. Book
  33. Newspaper
  34. Beginning
  35. Glasses
  36. Brunette
  37. Hot
  38. On
  39. Geek
  40. Country

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Filed under Curiosities, Paul


I ran across this the other day, listed as a “list of reasons for admissions to an asylum in the 1800s.” It may or may not be that – not clear why an 1800s asylum would have a 2010s phone number and website listed. (Ah, it’s a real place in West Virginia, supposedly haunted, now a tourist attraction of sorts.) So probably not quite some internet meme from last year.

Reading through the list, it’s quite a varied selection of things to get locked up for.


On review, I find that I could be committed for at least twenty-six reasons on the list, and there are those out there who would probably throw in at least a couple more.

I’ll leave it as an exercise to the student to figure out which twenty-six.

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Filed under Curiosities, Health, Paul

Thingamabobs – May 22nd

I’ve always found that there are odd little thingamabobs out there in the world. Things that are just a bit “off.” I suspect that most folks would just shrug and move on when encountering these thingamabobs, but I’ve always found them to be worth a second look and further examination.

I like to think my attitude is a result of my retention of a child-like sense of wonder and awe at the amazing universe around us. Others just think that I’m “easily amused.” (They very well might be correct.)

Today’s example is a soda can that spontaneously became an “outie” instead of an “innie.”






I know that it happened spontaneously because I was holding the carton it was in when it happened. It was one of those twelve-packs that’s intended to fit into your fridge and dispense one can at a time. I had just gotten home from the grocery store, set the case down on the floor, and felt the case shudder and thump, with a quite audible metallic sound.

I assumed that one of the cans had ruptured and I was going to need to clean up lemonade from all over the kitchen. I hadn’t set the sodas down very hard or on anything sharp, but something had triggered some sort of reaction.

Opening up the case, expecting to find sticky soda spraying everywhere, instead I found all twelve cans to be quite intact and clean. Eleven were perfectly normal, with both ends in the usual concave configuration. This one can had both ends pushed out to be convex.

From an engineering and science background, it made sense that this could have happened. The reason the ends are concave to begin with is because that  shape is very structurally sound to resist and contain the internal pressure from the soda’s gas. This is particularly true on this kind of can which is formed from a single piece of aluminum.

But having the ends concave (“innie”) is only one solution to the structural strength equation. An equally valid solution is to have the two ends convex (“outie”). Think about other large tanks used for containing volumes of liquid or gas under pressure. The Space Shuttle’s external tank. The tanks at the gas station or in your back yard that contain propane. The trucks that haul cold, liquid gases such as nitrogen or oxygen. They’re all shaped like long, narrow tubes with convex ends.

The fact that the huge, industrial strength containers use the convex ends makes me think that it might be because that configuration is stronger than the convex design. I might have to dig out and dust off some math textbooks to test that. (Ed. note: I won’t, don’t worry – I said might.) But the convex shape doesn’t lend itself to containers that can need to stand up on the ground or be stacked.

Think of fire extinguishers, or those big steel containers that contain helium for blowing up party balloons. They’re all flat on the bottom to make them easy stand up, but inside they’re rounded. (Convex or concave? Sounds like a question for “How It’s Made.”)

For soda cans, it’s a huge benefit if they can be stacked and stand up on their own. They also only have to withstand fairly low pressures. The solution there is to make both ends concave. Which is why they’re that way…

…until that rare moment when something snaps on one can and it flips from one stable configuration to one that might be slightly more stable from a pure standpoint, even if it does make it impossible to stand the can on its end.

It’s still amazing to me that it can do that without splitting open the aluminum – but there’s your proof.

(Kevin MacNamara, a high school friend, was the first to point out that I am “easily amused.” See, I still haven’t proven him wrong!)

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Filed under Curiosities, Paul