Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
March 2, 2008
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times
, Greensboro, NC.
Dish Racks, Band-Aids for Fingers, Trap Door
There are several basic designs for sinkside dish drainers. There's the plastic-or-rubber-covered wire design, there's the no-metal design with plastic in
thickish strips so they'll stay rigid without metal, and then there are the bare-wire dishracks.
For years we had settled on Rubbermaid products -- a "large dish drainer" with
a corner silverware compartment sitting atop a "large drain board." And when
our old one got too stained and cut-up to be tolerated in the kitchen anymore,
we at first thought of replacing it with yet another Rubbermaid -- this time the
But then my wife found the "system dishrack" at simplehuman.com and fell
Now, it's enough like all other dishracks that you know instantly what it is.
But the differences show up as pleasant surprises. First of all, the frame is
stainless steel -- but the place where you set your plates and platters to dry is
removable ABS plastic. So you can take it out and wash it.
And the silverware compartment is wonderfully clever. It's plastic and hooks
over the rim of the rack just like everybody else's product -- but it hangs over
the outside so it doesn't take up any room inside the rack. It's designed so that
water draining from the silverware is channeled in toward the main rack, so it
doesn't drip onto the counter.
And on top of that, there's a feature that we never knew we needed: a knife
rack. With several different widths to accommodate any knife from choppers to
paring knives, the knife rack holds the blade firmly in place, pointed down, so
they can dry separately and yet most of the blade is concealed in a place where
you won't accidentally cut yourself.
Of course, longer blades do stick up above the slot that holds them, so it's not
like you don't have to still be careful (see below, the review of Finger-Wrap
The drain board under it channels all the runoff water to a single spout --
which you can plug! Why would this matter? Because if you need to set
freshly washed fruit or a colander of pasta in the sink you probably don't want
to have dishdrain water dripping down into it. A very thoughtful feature, as
long as you don't lose the little plug.
This rack takes up about as much space as the old one. But it looks better.
And we can fit more dishes into it. And the knives dry better and with fewer
water stains. (Actually, I could have said "no water stains" but I can't be sure
you'll never get any.)
The "system dishrack" costs $49.99 at http://www.simplehuman.com. Or you
can buy it at Amazon.com for the amazing discount of only $49.95.
But when you get to simplehuman.com, you might find yourself distracted by
their "flip-top dishrack," which is identical to the "system dishrack" except
that it has a second level that can either stay over the drainboard or be flipped
outward to increase your total draining space -- for those times when you're
washing up after a large party or Thanksgiving dinner and you need more
space. That's $69.99.
Or you might get seduced by the "u-frame dishrack" which stands taller,
putting all the plates and silverware up top while pans and measuring cups
slide underneath them and stemware dangles between. $49.99 and worth it --
unless you have to put it where an overhanging cabinet will make it useless.
Or for ten dollars less, you might fall for the "wave frame dishrack," which has
-- get this -- a wavy frame so you can lean spoons or other utensils against it
and they won't just slide off to a corner.
Or the compact dishrack. Or the dishrack accessories.
In short, this could become a way of life.
Until now I had never heard of the simplehuman brand (their choice not to
capitalize anything). But now that we've used the system dishrack for several
weeks, I congratulate my wife almost as often as she congratulates herself for
having found the thing and bought it.
There really is such a thing as a better design, and this is it.
The packaging on Activ-Flex Finger-Wrap Band-Aids showed a completely
clear bandage exactly the right size and shape to deal with cuts on fingers.
Most adhesive bandages are useless for finger cuts or blisters, because the
nonadhesive part that fits right over the wound slides off and soon, precisely in
the place where you need coverage most, there's no coverage at all!
The Activ-Flex Finger-Wraps, though, don't have an absorbent pad that doesn't
The whole bandage sticks to the skin, exactly the same over the wound as
It struck me that this would do a much better job of holding the edges of the
cut together; and it was obvious that it wouldn't slide off.
My only worry was: What happens when you pull it off? Does it open up the
We bought a box, though, to give it a try.
And then we forgot that we had it.
What did you think we'd do, go home and cut our fingers so we could try out
our cool new Band-Aids?
No, we had to wait until the ordinary clumsiness of middle age gave one of us a
need for bandaging.
And then, in the midst of bleeding all over everything, we had to remember that
we had these cool new Band-Aids.
Finally, though, we had One Of Those Weeks. I cut myself first while putting a
knife into my wife's cool new dish drainer.
There was nothing about the dish drainer that caused the injury, except that it
held the knife blade still. Only about an inch of blade was exposed above the
drain's knife slot -- but that was enough for my finger to find it and the
bleeding to start.
No, I did not remember the new Band-Aids. Are you kidding? I was bleeding!
There was pain! I had just proved myself to be an idiot! Why would I suddenly
I just grabbed the plastic tray of first-aid stuff from our kitchen cupboard and
realized that we had used up all the Band-Aid brand adhesive bandages so all
that was left was junky bandages with cute pictures on them for children
whose parents let their kids choose their own first-aid products without regard
for quality (which would be us).
I knew from experience that these things barely stick in the first place and
certainly come off the moment you move the skin where you applied them.
But that's what we had. So I whimpered loudly, my wife came in to help, and
on went the Neosporin, then the bandage. Then I started counting the seconds
till the thing came off.
I'll give them credit -- the thing stayed on long enough for me to lose count.
So a couple of hours later, when I needed to replace it, we happened to be
upstairs. My wife went to our bathroom and found, in our upstairs first-aid
basket, the box of Activ-Flex clear Finger-Wrap Band-Aids and we decided that
this was an excellent opportunity to give them a try.
It went on easily. It held firmly. I could see, through the Band-Aid, that the
edges of the wound were being held tightly together.
There was no sliding. It stayed on through a shower. It did not leak. The
bleeding stayed stopped.
The next day, since there was no pain, I thought: Time to take it off!
I did not think: But be careful to pull it off gently so that the adhesive right on
the wound does not cause the wound to reopen.
No, I gave the thing a yank straight out from the wound.
Ouch. Wound reopened. Blood. New dose of Neosporin. New Activ-Flex
Band-Aid. New proof that at age 56 my brain is fading fast.
So a couple of days later, when I was trying to extract a Claritin from those
heavy-duty human-proof sheets they weld them to. I got my high-quality
barber shears that I use to trim my low-quality moustache, and as I tried to
pierce the titanium-foil packaging, the scissors burst through and then slid
away from the Claritin and into the side of my finger.
Different finger, much deeper wound. Claritin undisturbed in its siege-proof
Dripping blood hither and yon, I whimpered again and found that my faithful
lifelong companion had her ears so attuned to my slightest whine that she was
there in a trice, once again applying ointment and then the Active-Flex Band-Aid.
And once again the bandage closed the ragged edges of the wound, held it in
place, and stayed there long enough -- through yet another shower and several
handwashings -- that when I carefully, gently peeled it straight back instead of
outward, the wound did not reopen.
Now, several weeks later, I can't even find where the cuts were.
In short, the awkward bandage-on-finger problem has been solved. As long as
you're not an idiot and don't yank the thing off, it will be the least awful finger
cut experience you ever had. It's almost worth getting a nice paper cut just to
try it out.
In my endless search for pleasant entertainment in which people get killed a
lot, I ran across a series of mysteries called the "Home Repair Is Homicide"
My first thought is to sigh a little -- it's all the rage to have gimmicks in cozy
mysteries these days. First it was cats, which was tolerable for a while. Then
recipes -- honestly, would you eat anything made from a recipe in a murder
mystery? OK, I would, too, probably, as long as I really really trusted the chef.
Then again, most murders are domestic matters. Just how annoying a
husband am I?
Still, the cover blurbs on the paperback I picked up -- Trap Door, by Sarah
Graves -- looked intriguing.
The problem with this kind of cozy is that somebody who spends their life
remodeling houses is not likely to run into many murders. There's a simple
matter of plausibility.
That's why most mystery fiction has, for its sleuth character, someone who
would naturally get involved in criminal investigations -- policemen and
detectives, for instance, though also lawyers and medical examiners and crime
scene experts (but really, that almost never happens -- the examiners stay in
the morgue and the CSI guys stay in the lab).
Mary Higgins Clark writes terrific mystery-thrillers about ordinary people, but
she changes sleuth characters with each novel, so she doesn't have to explain
why the same person keeps getting involved with murders.
Sarah Graves, however, wanted a series sleuth who did home repairs and yet
had intelligent, mostly-believable reasons for getting intimately involved with
people who kill people. So she gave Jacobia "Jake" Tiptree a shady past.
Jake, it seems, was a hotshot Wall Street financier whose scruples didn't keep
her from taking on a lot of clients whose primary purpose was to launder
money they got through methods Jake didn't think it was prudent to inquire
So when she and her even-shadier husband divorced (he had one affair too
many) and she left Manhattan to take refuge on Long Island and start fixing up
houses, there are plenty of people -- old friends and former clients -- who have
reasons for looking her up.
Trap Door was a very enjoyable coast-to-coast read. The story was memorable
-- a rich former hitman's daughter's boyfriend is found murdered in his barn
and he didn't actually kill him, though he intended to -- and the writing was a
pleasure to read.
Also, the home repair details were worked into the text in such a way that they
actually were interesting and the details mattered. Though if you really find
the home repair bits repellent, you can skip those paragraphs and move right
on into the story.
I read every word of them. And I'm buying other volumes in the series.
Just a quick comment on the Home Repair is Homicide series: part of the charm of Sarah Graves' books is the setting of Eastport, Maine. I don't know why you said the book was set in Long Island. Please give Eastport its due, it deserves it!
Barbara in Bar Harbor, ME
College of the Atlantic
That's what I get for thinking I know geography! I knew it was Maine when I was reading it, but somewhere between finishing the book and getting to my computer to write the review, my memory shifted it far to the south, to a landscape that could not possibly fit the events of the story.
A mind is a terrible thing to lose.