Friday, December 12, 2014

Cross-country On A Sidewalk


Photo courtesy Flickr user El Capitan
Living the pedestrian life in the middle of town hath many pleasures, but walking solely, so to speak, on hard, flat surfaces is not one of them. Varying the last of the shoe I wear during the week is a good way to approximate the unpredictable demands that covering irregular ground makes on my core strength and sense of balance.

A morning spent in the garden peels years off my perceived age. The harder it is to get up and moving, the more necessary it is to saddle up and allow this reliable body to perform as it was designed to do.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dirty Windows Kill Neighborhoods


Photo courtesy Flickr user Wonderlane
My long exercise in urban homesteading has paid off with a bustling, fashionable neighborhood. The Hill wasn’t always like this: in the Sixties it had emptied with cheap gas, the growth of the suburbs, and the dire unemployment of the Boeing Depression. When I fulfilled a childhood ambition to live in what had been described as the arts neighborhood, both the unemployment and vacancy rates were around fourteen percent. Property owners were, no kidding, paying responsible people to live in their places to protect them from squatters. 

Central Seattle was in worse shape than Baltimore, the benchmark definition of urban decay. The dreary, occluded glazing of windows neglected for decades cast a literal pall over perception. When, young and foolish, I settled up the street, I was prepared to cope with the local housing situation by six itinerant years following a graduate student/draftee from city to city in the US. 

The simplest exercises in housekeeping yield the biggest returns. We take them for granted, but having a window is a privilege. Having a pleasant outlook is even more of a privilege. Generous glazing is a vital sign that the neighborhood is secure and the state prosperous enough not to tax a house on how many windows it has. While I was babbling about the evolution of interior lighting from log cabin to the “picture window” of the Fifties tract house, the in-house archaeologist reminded me that it was Sweden that produced the glazing that enabled the daylighting of the literal Enlightenment. Swedish forests fueled the industry, and Swedish sand provided the raw material. Swedish tabletop glass is still a benchmark of quality.

A friend moved to Seattle from New Orleans and developed the predictable pits of winter depression that dominates the local February. She had survived several of them and was whimpering at the prospect of another. Seattle needs a term for people who have not been through a February, like Alaska’s cheechako for newcomers who haven’t lived through the winter that can freeze eyeballs. I advised Cary to manage her windows as my grandmother had insisted: keep them and the sills spotless inside and out. It worked for Cary. If it worked for a tropical sybarite like her, it will no doubt work for anyone.

Sparkling windows transmit sparkling light that reveals the sparkle, or lack of it, in metabolism, housekeeping practices, and ultimately, intellect. Safeguarding something as simple and fundamental as daylight literally illuminates daily life. Burnishing reflective surfaces protects them from the microscopic pitting that evolves into corrosion. A very careful hand with 0000 steel wool will remove the varnish-like layer of urban decades. German biker’s chrome polish is a good bet, too. Try either abrasive in an obscure corner of a pane.

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lawful Prey


Photo courtesy Flickr user pcurto
About a year ago I fell for the superficially traditional lines of an inexpensive enameled-steel tea kettle. I wanted a kettle made of ferrous metal to use with an induction hotplate, the current stellar performer in the kitchen. The new vessel took four times longer to boil water than the plastic hot pot I’d been using. I surplussed the thing, finally having learned to cut my losses quickly.

Art historian John Ruskin said, “There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.” Yup. Last week, I stumbled across an iteration of the same product, this time from the old line French manufacturer of orange enameled cast iron cookware, still my favorite. I thought the kettle worth a shot, and it is unquestionably a winner. The lid is insulated, and the proportions of the traditional curves channel heat into the water rather than the surrounding environment. 

This comfortable old house thrives on comfortable old design. French and kitchen go together like chocolate and pears.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Right Next To Godliness, Apparently


Photo thanks to Flickr user f1uffster. (It's not as hard as it looks.)

A recent Science Daily post reports a study finding that an unclean environment promotes unethical behavior. I won’t belabor the point except to mention that the simple dignity of living in quarters free of physical hazards and allergens promotes poise and rational cognition.

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More after the jump.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Home Turf


Photo courtesy Flickr user riderwichlacz
I am so proud of Seattle. Last Friday, protest organizers postponed their gathering to make way for an annual charity caroling competition. Things haven’t changed much since the hippies wore saddle shoes and water-skied.

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More after the jump.