Friday, June 7, 2013

The Art Of Litter

Photo courtesy Flickr

Every spring I get annoyed with whoever is throwing balls of paper onto the lawn. Then I put on my distance glasses and realize I’m looking at anemone blanda. Short white flowers look like litter in the middle of town.

Drop cigarette butts under rose bushes to protect them from aphids. Follow the butts with a banana peel. Roses like to eat banana peels. I use the cigarette butts that smokers leave along the sidewalk, generate my own peels, and scuffle either into the mulch under the rosebush.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013


Photo courtesy Flickr

I am told that in French, the word “prestige” connotes hollow presumption. I have no French, but the skate term “poser” is dear to my heart.

It was my privilege to know a genuine princess when I was a child. Miss W. had fled Central Europe during World War Two, and as far as my recollections from age eight can see, every bone in her body was gentle and genuine.

When I was a young and ambitious householder, I read the many glossy shelter books marketed to the general public. English designer David Hicks put out a series of titles that reflect his decent, privileged sensibilities. His book on flower arranging includes the suggestion to arrange stems in the hand as they are cut and simply place them in a jam jar. The book on bathrooms recommends using only white fixtures, a guaranteed way to protect oneself from the shifting winds of fashion. Incidentally, Hicks includes an off-the-grid bath scheme in a stately home. 

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Thinking Things Through

Photo courtesy Flickr

I cruised a local luggage specialist last week and critiqued an over-specialized side bag cunningly padded to hold small electronics. Little did I know that a light footed veteran sales guy was hovering behind us at seven o’clock. I stand by my comments, though. 

The thing was the very stylish top bag in a matching stack of large roller, under-seat companion, and thing, the smallest Bremen town musician. I like to visit this store because they carry interesting variants of luggage brands that live on the hardy shelves of the Great Big Hiking Co-op. The store’s location is slightly more convenient than the Co-op and worth the loss of a member rebate for a middling purchase.

The Co-op outfits for serious field expeditions and offers a line of protective plastic cases that list how deep the water has to be before the hull fails. These cases range from wallet size to a photographer’s rolling storeroom and itch to be handled. I have left my share of fingerprints on the stock and my share of dollars in the till.

The life I live does not ordinarily require securing gear against loss at sea. If I were considering putting two figures into a matchy-matchy shoulder pouch, I’d think again and pick up a hard-working slash proof shoulder bag from the travel specialist, stashing my Preciousphone inside encased in a Deep Six unit. The arrangement would probably cost twice as much as the top piece of the designer set, be far more useful, and serve as a truly functional response to real world security considerations.

English Conde Nast design magazine World of Interiors offered a straightforward computer bag about ten years ago: it was a bubble wrap sleeve inside an ordinary but interesting shopping tote. Nothing secures valuables like a brown paper bag. 

More after the jump.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Blue Laws

Photo courtesy Flickr

When I walked into the Righteous Value hardware store on the Ave some months ago, the guys were griping about street kids spitting on the sidewalk. When Seattle’s law against spitting on the sidewalk was repealed in the Seventies, it was lampooned as a ridiculous relic of Victorian life. Other ridiculous relics of Victorian life were fidelity, thrift, sobriety, and basic education. Things have changed since the Seventies, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers points out the stakes.

Mama told me that the law against spitting on the sidewalk protected crawling infants from tubercular sputum that might be carried into the house on the long hems of mother’s skirt. Victorian skirts were edged inside with stout corduroy skid strips to protect them from abrasion as they swept the ground. Modesty demanded that they sweep the ground.

TB now resists antibiotics, so spit in the gutter. That’s what it’s for. And take your shoes off when you get home.

Back in the day, blue laws kept stores closed on Sunday. The practice gave everyone a breather. I find it useful to define a sabbath and respect it to give us a hiatus from the relentless cycle of acquisition and disposal. I regret the state of Washington's recent relaxation of liquor control, but it does give a competitive advantage to the temperate. Other aspects of blue laws were deeply unfair to families, but there was a baby in the bathwater that was thrown out when they were repealed.

Try Neville Shute’s Trustee From The Toolroom if you’re looking for a good Saturday read.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

On The Wisdom Of Storing Corrugated Boxes

Photo courtesy Flickr

There isn’t any. 

Here’s what I have learned from trying: the silverfish who rode upstairs on the shallow cardboard tray I use to hold working cans of house paint are an ancient species with an enchanting courtship ritual and small families.
Corrugated cardboard reliably scars old varnished wood every time I haul a flattened box from here to there.
Mites like to eat the glue that holds the laminations in place. The tunnels give them a comfortable place to live. Mites are allergenic.
Corrugated board makes excellent kindling no matter where it is placed.
Corrugated board is bulky, hard to clean around, and seldom fits into a closet.
Handling flattened corrugated boxes taxes fine motor skills.

Temporary work in a mail room years ago taught me the very real pleasures of packing into fresh, clean containers. Frequent mail order shipments allow me to enjoy being on the receiving end of elegant packing jobs. The neighborhood shipping concierge charges a noticeable penny to put a package together, but it’s nothing compared to the hazards and inconveniences mentioned above.


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