Friday, January 29, 2010

Toe Shoes


Photo courtesy Flickr

Time morphs nomenclature.

I was on a college campus recently. Leaving the cafeteria, I was charged by a short line of students who obviously had decided to race to the front door when they were around the corner on the entry path.

It was glorious. I had time to dodge to my left just as the leader hit the second step and dodged to his left. The students looked like a line of two-year-olds in their aerobic joy, and I couldn’t help but notice that the leader was wearing soft athletic shoes with separate toes. His feet were toons. More after the jump.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Still City


Photo courtesy Flickr

This has been the quietest season I can remember in thirty-eight years. Nearly every week-end day is as still as the morning of 9/11, when air traffic was grounded for hours.

Whatever the reasons, it is a welcome change. I can hear voices instead of engines. The birds and dogs run their shows, people relate lyrically, the petty business of the neighborhood makes itself known, and best of all, the train whistle calls out the nature of the night.

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spring



Photo courtesy Flickr

On any day of the year in Seattle, one can experience low clouds and forty-five degree weather. That’s the base line. Temperature will vary high or low, sunlight will be dim or relatively bright depending on the month, wind will be strong or light, and humidity will be on the dry side or dripping out of the sky. One can always count on gray and forty-five.

Any time the temperature is over forty, things grow. This year spring arrived the day after Christmas. It was clear, and the plants and grass lifted their heads and got going. It won’t be long before it is time to give what’s left of the lawn its first mowing.

Cutting the grass early produces a dense turf with green stems right down to the roots. A little attention to weed control generates a bonny green community that will carry itself through the warm months with next to no maintenance.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Washtub


Photo courtesy Flickr


Long ago over a glass of gin, a senior friend waxed nostalgic about her twin tub washer, a brand called “Easy”. My mentor could have had any appliance she wanted or she could have hired someone to do the work. She chose to wash laundry for a family of six with a machine that required her to lift wet clothes out of a tub of soapy water and into a centrifuge at the side. A twin-tub rewards hand-on effort with huge economies in water, detergent, and energy.

Thanks to my mentor’s advice, I’ve owned two such machines. The first taught me that it was a pain in the neck to handle wet clothes, and I switched to a small automatic after a few years. Three automatics and an empty nest later, I switched back to a twin-tub, and I’m happy with the change.

The new machine is far lighter and better-designed than my first vintage one. I had it shipped to the nearest freight concierge office, collecting it on foot with a hand truck a few days after I called in the order. These little machines are popular in the desert and in the bush because they use so little water.

It took a few weeks of grousing about handling wet clothes for me to realize that a twin-tub is not an inferior washing machine: it is a very superior washtub. I can run loads of clothes through it in their order of soil and fill the machine once where previously I might have filled three or four times. The centrifuge is more efficient than an automatic spin cycle, and I can direct used water back into the tub.

A long final spin will get things dry enough to wear, if I don’t mind a brief chill. A folding drying rack or set of plastic hangers will finish drying with no additional carbon load. Line dried clothes last at least five times as long as ones that are dried by machine. Textiles are hard on the environment, so this economy pays off in ways that are not obvious.

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More after the jump.