Friday, January 30, 2015

Crows Dunk


Photo courtesy Flickr user bobbygreg
I got a sinking feeling when the local crows stopped commuting from Duvall and set up housekeeping in the back yard hemlock. The birds have turned out to be good and useful neighbors who appear to have driven out several invasive species. I haven’t seen an English sparrow or starling in years. The in-house field scientist swears he saw a crow hazing a grey squirrel into the path of an oncoming vehicle. He has also observed crows soaking dry crusts in residential gutters.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Standing Desk


Willie Cole photo courtesy Flickr user rocor
At the moment, there’s buzz about the value of working standing up. Back in the day, I produced much of my freelance graphic material standing at a modest vintage sideboard that was just the right height to support a drawing board. The drawers and cupboards in the piece held supplies, and the style melted into domestic inventory.

It’s easy to improvise a standing work surface. Try the kitchen counter, remembering that grease is the enemy. Be fussy about dimensions, since getting the right fit will allow you to use your bones and muscles, not to mention brain, to best advantage. One or two inches below the elbow is the recommendation. Herky activities like kneading bread or ironing happen with the surface a little lower.

For me, the plastic bed risers sold in variety and hardware stores raise an ordinary table to just the right height. Legally acquired industrial grade dairy crates are useful and versatile. Some people set the legs of a folding office work table into lengths of plastic pipe. Brick and cinder block aren’t bad, either.

Stack an extra surface, like a generous drawing board, on top of an existing work top. Finesse the spacing with cans of tuna or whatever. Non-skid shelf liner is the key to the mint.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Lose. Bury. Dust.


Photo courtesy Flickr user No_Water
These are the Big Three of domestic composition. Lose I learned from a film instructor: it’s a term for getting rid of something. Bury is a graphic art term for placing an element where it is unlikely to be noticed. Dust is housekeeping jargon for the deliberate destruction of an unloved artifact, as in “I broke it dusting”.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wedding Basics



Photo courtesy Flickr user Profzucker
Originally the bride chose a dress that could be worn later for other special occasions.

Years of freelancing social graphics left me familiar with etiquette books. I asked the bride (terminology obsolete) to choose one to use as a reference. It’s not cool to admit consulting an etiquette book: the assumption is that correct practice is a matter of course. Web sites related to print references seem to be the most conservative.

The ceremony is peripheral: the couple perform the actual marriage. A home wedding followed by a simple collation is simple, dignified, and can be very elegant. I vote for pure beeswax or white candles. Flowers from a home garden are choice.

A handwritten invitation rendered in black or dark blue fountain pen on first quality paper (think Whooper brand) posted with a thoughtfully chosen stamp is an invitation for the ages. Inexpensive pens write as well as the top of the line. Use an archival quality artist’s marker if you just can’t face liquid ink. All forms of graphic reproduction are shortcuts. 

Be meticulous about wording and the forms of address.  The wording has been worked out over centuries and is intended to respect the various nuances of social relationships. This is an opportunity to rectify your address book, so that any volunteer can help with a mailing and get the wording and punctuation right. Respect the hand at your command-just slow down when you write numbers. Cut cheap paper the same size and color as the final stock to practice spacing. Buy an extra ten percent to cushion errors. Ask a friend to proof read. Place the stamp carefully.

The practice of sending an invitation in double envelopes, aka “cabinet”, was designed to protect the invitation proper, the inner one with only the guests’ names on it, from the grubby fingers of postal workers. Before postal services were established, a footman presented the invitation with a gloved hand at the guests’ door. Hand delivery is still a viable option. The invitations for one major event were delivered in FedEx priority envelopes, an especially effective variant of an outer envelope. The envelope itself evolved from a simple extra sheet of writing paper that was folded around the message.

My favorite wedding critic is Miss Manners, who has a black belt in psychodrama.


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Monday, January 26, 2015

The First Whiff Of Spring

Photo courtesy Flickr user nordique
Spring turned up last Wednesday when soil fungi began to release their fragrance into cool, still air. I will check the buds in the native planting on the UW campus: seasons change quickly. Sometimes one minute makes an observable difference.

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