Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Plume Check

Photo courtesy Flickr

The ultimate housekeeping issue has been upon us now for weeks, radioactive dust. If I stop cleaning right now and nothing disturbs the property, in a couple of thousand years an archaeologist can come along and pinpoint the date. I suppose that means that someone with the right equipment can catch me procrastinating even now.


Evaluating nuclear housekeeping issues is tricky business: one hopes to remain rational while respecting the terrible power of this new technology. World War Three, I maintain, already happened, but nobody heard the bang. The atmospheric testing of the Fifties distributed glow-in-the-dark toxins just as pervasively as the delivery systems before which we cowered.


Soviet warheads landed in Texas, but they showed up on their way to being dismantled. My friendly local physicist said the unrecognized hero of the Cold War was the guy who sat beneath tons of gravel defusing the nukes. If something went wrong, the gravel would damp both him and the mushroom cloud.


A casual surf of Pacific weather patterns last week turned up the comment that the minimal radiation we’re finding here is characteristic of steam emissions rather than a Chernobyl-style tuna melt.


I’d never blow off concerns about fallout, but I’d just as soon keep apprehension at bay so I can deal with it. My grapevine suggests wearing a waterproof rain hat when trouble’s drifting in this direction, and I’ve noticed the local hipsters suddenly are sporting umbrellas.


Not to sound overconfident, but whatever the schmutz I’m coping with, HEPA filters and high-tech cleaning cloths will make short work of it. Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bum and the great poet of the environment said Hiroshima’s OK and you can get great noodles there.


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More after the jump.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Compleat Kitchen

Photo courtesy Daniel Salo

On an ordinary errand last week, I stopped by a drugstore that’s part of a national chain. Many students and immigrants shop at this location, and the aisle of small appliances stopped me dead in my tracks.

It’s not uncommon to spend tens of thousands of dollars to fit out a kitchen, yet for less than a hundred, one can pick up a small bundle of gear that will use a fraction of the energy of ordinary appliances and turn out healthier food in less time with almost no attention.

Where are the smarts in this issue?

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Improv Undying



Photos courtesy Flickr

In the early Seventies, New York architect Alan Buchsbaum retrieved slabs of stone and marble from buildings that were being demolished. In doing so, he invented the American interior hardscape.

Originally, Buchsbaum simply set broken-edged slabs of stone onto sturdy tables and used them for dining. He adapted equally sturdy surplus bank chairs to use as seating.

As far as I know, this strategy was the first conscious adaptive reuse of materials. At the time, the culture was so rich and energy still so cheap that materials of such quality were literally free for the taking.

It didn’t take long for the use of stone to be formalized. I much prefer the lively experimental phase.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

A Lighter Shade of Grey


Photo courtesy Flickr

Any day now, there will be a glorious break in the weather. The sky will turn dove grey and the chill factor will permit a short walk without goosebumps. When the glorious break in the weather appears, Seattle natives will crawl out from under their rocks wearing the shorts and tank tops brought to the region by immigrants.

The first day is not pretty-fish belly white skin dominates the landscape
, and will do so for a couple of weeks. Eventually, filtered sun and vitamin D bring the undead back to life. The transition period is always awkward.

First day tanning is an unrecognized local tradition, along with downing a dawn beer at the Athenian and loafing on the Ship Canal’s grassy terraces of a warm Sunday evening watching tipsy sailors lock through to the lake.

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More after the jump.