Friday, May 16, 2014

Bear Math


Photo courtesy Flickr

The smaller the person, the bigger the stuffed animal. A baby cousin lives on three feet of machine-washable “Big” ursine plush, while a friend stows a palm-sized Original Mohair teddy for emergencies.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Murder In The Wardrobe


Photo courtesy Flickr

Back in the school day, a sophomore looked at a borderline weary shirt and declared that it was time to kill it-wear it out by wearing it for everything. I made my first kill not long after when I deemed a pricey, but bargain, wool skirt ready for hard use. Thirteen years later I had worn it two hundred days a year in all seasons, in town, on muddy trails, and in deep snow. The experience taught me that first quality hath hidden virtues. It also taught me that if I wore the same thing every time I visited my favorite aunt, she would offer to buy me new clothes.

I don’t recall ever being disappointed by pushing the margins of the envelope of a promising piece of gear. The exercise usually teaches me that routine applications call on twenty percent, at most, of capacity. High-end cookware performs best over an open fire. Top of the line hiking gear eases life under a roof. What it takes to make good design fail so far is more than I am capable of offering.


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More after the jump.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Move Dinner, Not The Project


Photo courtesy Flickr

An eighteenth century chateau had no dining room. Staff set up a table and served the food wherever was convenient on a given occasion. Since our kitchen or dining table are frequently occupied by a complicated project, we save time and keep things moving by doing the same. 

As far as I know, English rooms of the same period were used for many activities. Fixed functions for English rooms were a product of the nineteenth century. I presume that prosperity, oil lamps, and massive, overstuffed furniture created circumstances that made it easier to add a room than carry a tray to another "chamber".

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Riace, Kiev, And Tomorrow


Ruta graviolens photo courtesy Flickr

Before dawn on Sunday, when I compose all but the rare current post, KCTS offers European News Journal. This week’s show covered two topics of intense and current concern. Years ago, a source who regularly reads military journals pointed out that what is known as “low-intensity urban warfare” was the wave of the future. Great. Beirut was the defining example. The current story describes week-end training camps in Kiev, where a million locals are urgently honing their marksmanship and choreography. Beauties worm their way awkwardly through an obstacle course. The lawyer/veteran in charge hands out half a dozen “legal” live rounds borrowed from the rifle club next door for the final exercise. Great. Sounds like fun. No doubt video games have been good preparation.

A few clicks to the southwest, the mayor of a small town in Italy has recreated Haight Ashbury’s exercise in urban renewal. Like Sixties San Francisco and other major American cities, Riace’s core was crumbling from out-migration. A boatload of refugees arrived, and his honor invited those Kurds to rebuild the city’s tattered housing. A tender local economy sprouted to support both the first wave of immigrants and subsequent arrivals from other distressed regions. At times, they have constituted a third of the population. There has been no discord.

Restoring the city has been the great experiment of Capitol Hill. The fibrillating heart of Seattle wasn’t even on life support in the early Seventies. Urban planning graduates escaping from New York announced that Seattle was the city that had a chance to get it right. At the time, Seattle was in worse shape even than Baltimore, the defining example of central urban pathology. Long years of patient, unpaid labor brought the infrastructure back to life, Country Doctor kept the neighbors frisky, and first-rate grocery stores fueled the whole works.

“Inter-webs” wrap the Hill even more tightly than the grapevines of old. So far, the new low-carbon heart of town is holding its own.

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More after the jump.