Friday, February 14, 2014

Do Not Let The Hardware Determine The Mission


Photo courtesy Flickr

This Navy Seals rule of thumb is good armor in the face of the endless possibilities of digital consumer culture. Twice in the last week I’ve kept over-extension at bay by muttering the precept under my breath.

Owning something means thinking about using it, or thinking about not using it. The less you use something, the closer it should be to the back door. Good deals generate ambitious plans. Ambitious plans devour week-ends.

The cost of ownership often exceeds the cost of acquisition. I’m enjoying an inventory that works nearly every day, demands minimum maintenance, and takes up an ever-shrinking percentage of the cubic feet under the roof.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Painted Floors Save Electricity


Photo courtesy Flickr

I theorized that it would be just as easy to coat a floor with a layer of paint as a layer of polish. Thanks to a no-shoes policy, I seem to be getting away with it. The unbroken expanses of glossy color have brought unexpected benefits. I knew they’d be quick to maintain and would restore the period interior, but I didn’t realize they’d reflect small amounts of incandescent light in a very efficient way.

I set pear-shaped six watt incandescent bulbs into wall-outlet night lights shucked free of their styrene reflectors. The little bulbs generate warm period safety light for this turn of the twentieth century architecture. Incandescent keeps subtle currents of air circulating in an interior I heat to a necessary minimum.

On a recent night-time trip down the stairs, I realized that the painted planes of the floors distribute eighteen total watts of electricity sufficiently to safeguard two thirds of the square footage of the house. 

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Rembrandt Was Ghetto


Photo courtesy Flickr

Aside from a bloody scene in a field hospital, the new film Monuments Men is a righteous all-ages treat. Some years ago the British glossy-shelter World of Interiors published a book review about life in totalitarian Germany. The critic touched on doubtful social behaviors that are familiar from any current tabloid, paper or video. He exhorted the reader to “stay shockable and resist”. The phrase has been useful as I navigate the endless seas of marketing and self-promotion.

Monuments Men is the story of a group of museum administrators and art collectors who race invading Allied armies to rescue countless kidnapped works of European art.  German authorities intended to form a thousand year trophy collection, as nasty a bit of cultural imperialism as one could imagine.

One of the rescue squad is a young Jewish guy who had been raised in Germany. His local museum had had a Rembrandt self-portrait in its collection but he was banned from viewing it. There’s a touching scene in the film in which the leader of the rescue group invites the kid to “meet your neighbor”, Rembrandt’s elderly self-image that is propped up amidst the dazzling clutter of hundreds of painted treasures. At one point in his painting career, Mr. Rembrandt was widowed and bankrupted. He took shelter in the local ghetto, so the Clooney character’s remark was truly grounded in history.

David Byrne discusses culture and social cleavage in How Music Works. Byrne says that until the late nineteenth century, audiences were a mix of all levels of privilege and it was ordinary that they would eat, chat, and stroll around during a performance. It will be a happy day when a local producer tries something similar. 

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sap And Stems


Photo courtesy Flickr

‘Tis the season to keep an eye on the woody stems of leafless plants. Now and then weather and sun combine to produce a bare landscape quivering with life. It can be a fleeting event-mere minutes last year-but well worth watching for.

Winter dismal and last week’s very hard weather left a small stand of native roses looking bleak and bored. A fleeting snowfall left the plants frisky and reaching eagerly for the ambient light of a late urban evening.

If you fear a plant is dead, nick the stem with a thumbnail. Finding green means there’s hope.

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More after the jump.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Best Deal In Town


Photo courtesy Flickr

The annual King Conservation District bare root plant sale is taking pre-orders through March first. Plants are sold in bundles of ten-for near pennies- and are available for pick-up at the district’s Renton headquarters. 

I have ordered a couple of times and been happy with the stock. Reasoning that a wild planting has a certain percentage of loss, I have set seedlings into the ground over a well-irrigated serving of water retention granules and then let nature take its course. The plants that have struck root are bulletproof.

I have not worried about over planting a bundle of ten-the resulting thicket, should one develop, is characteristic of the wild woods. It’s a small matter to edit horticultural clutter. Sometimes the clutter becomes a Christmas tree. There’s no hurry to log: natural crowding trains woody stems into natural forms.

The Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus is encircled with a demonstration garden of native plants. The flagship store of the Great Big Hiking Co-op is set in an exemplary urban forest. Reach the Burke by any of countless busses from the tunnel downtown. The Co-op’s any easy ten minute walk from the bus tunnel. Getting to the Grady Way sale site in Renton is somewhat trying on public transportation, although reaching nearby South Center is trivial from the bus tunnel. It might simplify the trip to bus to the mall and then grab a cab. Fifteen bundles of ten seedlings each would not be difficult to manage on public transportation. Bring a plastic bag.

Growing native plants also grows native birds. No one is better company than a sassy urbanized chickadee.

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More after the jump.