The old oaken desk

More home decor, this time in a report on Peninsula Furniture Moving Day, which was two Sundays back. The basic strategy: take Jacques’s fold-up Scandinavian desk (of rosewood) from Ramona St. to a consignment shop in Sunnyvale; move the big oak desk from Staunton Ct. to Ramona, to replace Jacques’s desk there; move the big CD carousel (solid cherry, originally from Levenger) to Staunton Ct., from which it can be sold or donated. Later, move a small bookshelf from Staunton Ct. to replace the CD carousel; acquire a desk organizer and a swing-arm desk lamp for the oak desk; and finish removing the contents of my Stanford office (now given up) for recycling or for processing at Ramona St. The result was a gigantic task of sorting and storing, still in progess.

Meanwhile, here’s the oak desk (originally from the study in my Columbus OH house, now in my Ramona St. bedroom), with accessories:


(Large “memory collages” on the wall, plus the Jacques and Arnold wedding-equivalent photo from 1996.)

Great thanks to: Brent and Janet, who provided Brent’s truck for moving stuff; Kim, who provided her car; and Paul, who shared in the heavy lifting. And separately to Juan, who made many trips with me to Stanford to process the contents of my office there. (I’ll post separately on the paper-clearing problem.)

At one point, I had four workspaces in my Columbus house, plus an Ohio State office (eventually a big one with two workspaces in it). Then, starting in 1986, also two workspaces at Ramona St. plus a Stanford office. Then, after clearing out of Columbus in 1998, three workspaces at Ramona St. and two at Staunton Ct., plus a Stanford office. Now I’m down to three workspaces at Ramona St. Contract, contract. Divest, divest.

Digression on the title of this posting, which is a play on “The Old Oaken Bucket”. From Wikipedia:

The Old Oaken Bucket is a traveling trophy awarded in American college football as part of the Indiana–Purdue rivalry between the Indiana Hoosiers football team of Indiana University and Purdue Boilermakers football team of Purdue University. It was first awarded in 1925… Indiana and Purdue first met on the gridiron in 1891.


… The name of the trophy refers to a sentimental poem written in 1817 by a successful printer and publisher, Samuel Woodworth (1784–1842) which begins:

How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,
When fond recollection presents them to view!
The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wild-wood,
And every loved spot which my infancy knew!
… And e’en the rude bucket that hung in the well —
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket which hung in the well.

Although Samuel Woodworth was not from Indiana, the poem exemplifies the sentiment felt by the people of Indiana towards their home state. The poem was set to music in 1826 by G. F. Kiallmark (1804–1887) and memorized or sung by generations of American schoolchildren; it made the poet’s unpretentious childhood home in Scituate, Massachusetts the goal of sentimental tourists in the late 19th century.

The song has been recorded many times, from the early days of the phonograph till now. You can watch a Terrytoon version from 1941 here.

The adjective oaken. From OED3 (March 2004) for adj. oaken:

Made of or consisting of oak wood. Now somewhat arch. or literary, and in unmarked contexts usually replaced by oak n. [first cite 1393; cites through 1988 (Michael Chabon, old oaken door)]

The relevant derivational suffix –en (forming adjectives from nouns) forms adjectives of material (wooden, earthen, woollen) or resemblance (flaxen, ashen) or both (silken, golden).

The old oaken desk had no desktop storage spaces, so I went on a web search for what’s known in the trade as a desk (or desktop or desk toporganizer, which sits at the back of a desktop. Enormous number of these, but eventually I found, on, the Safco Low Profile Desk Top Organizer, in three wood finishes, including medium oak (reasonably close to the oak of the desk). Perfect size: just a bit shorter than the desktop, one foot deep, and one foot tall (so it fits nicely under the things already hanging on the wall). Ok, it was  just wood laminate, not actual oak (like the desk), and it needed assembly (it came as eght panels, shelves, and dividers, plus a great pile of hardware bits, in an astonishingly heavy shipping box. The instructions maintained that the only tools required were short flat-blade and Phillips screwdrivers (I have ample collections of both types, in various sizes), but Juan and I — Juan did the real work, while I handed him things and puzzled out the instructions with him) didn’t appreciate just how short short was: no more than a couple of inches end to end, required at several crucial points in the advanced stages of assembly.

A crucial design element was something made especially popular by IKEA, the Swedish giant of needs-assembly furnishings: cam lock nuts, tightened on cam screw posts by turning a screwdriver. A nut and post pair:


It took hours and hours, including a trip to the hardware store to get a really short screwdriver and a digression into disassembly and reassembly when we’d installed a vertical divider backwards. But eventually it was done. We had all the hardware bits needed, and none were left over, always a satisying conclusion to an assembly event.

The desk lamp. Back at Staunton Court, I had a wonderful lamp on the oak desk, a white swing-arm desk lamp, which can move easily in three dimensions and is made stable by a weighted base. Not only useful, but a wonderful, aesthetically satisying, piece of design. It got moved to Ramona St. along with the desk. Pleased to see my old friend, I plugged it in, flipped the switch… and nothing happened. Well, it was missing its halogen bulb.

No problem. Kim and I found the bulb specifications engraved on the inside of the lamp hood, and she went off to the hardware store (the local Ace Hardware sees people from my household a lot). Oops, it turned out that there are different prong widths. Back to the hardward shore, but then it turned out that some sockets require prongs of differing thicknesses. Back to the hardware store, but then it turned out that when plugged in, the right bulb did light up, but just barely. The damn lamp was deficient.

So I then embarked on an attempt to find a suitable lamp on Early on, armed with the technical term swing-arm, I found this image of my lamp, but in black.


Unfortunately, it was in an article on types of desk lamps, with no information about this particular model. So I opened the search to white desk lamps, swing-arm if possible. Hours of impossibly frustrating searching ensued; my attempts to narrow the search were frustrated by Amazon’s attempts to flog lamps they preferred, however unlike my specifications they were.

I soon abandoned hopes for a white lamp. Apparently, for such objects, black is the new black.

I got the choices down from 40,000+ to about 4,000, and just as I was dissolving in tears of terminal frustration, on the last page I was willing to look at before settling on something far from my desires but minimally acceptable, there appeared My Swing-Arm Lamp (as above, and also in #1). Pricey, but at that point I just wanted to get on with life.

So go my days.

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