Friday, January 23, 2015

The Elbow

Maybe it's a guy thing. Photo courtesy Flickr user voteprime.
Once a garment needs one repair, it will need repeated attention in a cycle of diminishing returns. I spent a long half-hour discussing the blown out elbow of the in-house archaeologist’s uniform shirt, a plaid model from Oregon Rodeo.
A good needleworker will install an ultrasuede patch with careful stitches placed about eight to the inch on a heavy weave. Doing so will take about half an hour, not counting travel, procurement of patch and thread, and procrastination (figure three years). A six year old shirt is good for another ten or fifteen, but the time doesn’t pencil out for me. The lines of supply are reliable at the moment, and I value my attention more than the shirt.

Himself may have a go at the patch for sentimental reasons. I was happy to subtract myself from the equation. A skilled patch of an elbow or knee is no small accomplishment. I’d be inclined to trim the sleeves above the elbow, use the shirt for chores, and then fabricate rectangular patches to use in a future quilt. It’s trivial to piece together irregular units as Japanese farmers used to do. That kind of a quilt top is easily backed by a veteran sheet or tablecloth and tied over a weary blanket fill.

The short version is to skip the whole exercise and let the marketplace solve the problem. 

More after the jump.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Housekeeping Is Time Management

Upper and lower cases photo courtesy Flickr user addedentry
It’s hard to stay on top of the filing while trying to meet the ordinary rush of day to day demands. By filing I mean returning each artifact to its home position after it is no longer needed. The home position is that closest to where a thing is used first. A tea kettle, for example, has a parking place close to the water source.

If I maintain my concentration and move deliberately through a sequence of daily tasks, the day has a decent flow that flow carries over into evening. There are no nutso peaks and hassles in the work load.

It takes constant attention to the minor details of arranging things in space to sustain the flow. The payoff is huge: a calm stomach and no more than twenty minutes spent looking for things-over the course of a year. The Shakers argued that if “you can put it down you can put it away”. The practice works as well for a family of two as it apparently did for dozens of people living communally.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Photo courtesy Flickr user Mike Baehr
Ordinarily, I do not rely on KEXP for housekeeping advice. A while ago, though, I heard Japandroid nail efficiency: “if they try to slow you down, [dismiss them impolitely]”. 


More after the jump.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Base Station

Photo courtesy Flickr user OneEighteen
Ma Bell taught me to refer to “the telephone” as a “base station”. Back in the day, a telephone meant a rotary unit hard-wired to the wall with two generous and expensive lengths of insulated copper. For free, the Phone Company would send a guy out to maintain the thing, because it belonged to Western Electric. Phone bills were essentially a rental charge. Official permission was required to hang anything, like an answering machine, on the land line that connected home to the central telephone office.

The telecommunications umbilical cord has been withering since Japanese competition proved the value of user-friendly wall plugs. My early supervisors drooled in envy.

Over the decades, the base station evolved from a straightforward hard-wired unit often shared by several households to a convenient plug-in land line that supported a wireless hand set. It’s not news that many households do without a land line altogether, taking their telecommunications to the air. The step from a hard-wired electrical supply to independent cordless lighting and other battery-powered appliances, like a fan or radio, is a similar move toward that which is decentralized, efficient, ultra-light, portable, versatile, green, easy to maintain, and which amplifies interior space.

Moving into an 1890 building, I realized that low-tech systems of lighting, heating, and cooking suited the architecture much better than the unwieldy dormant amenities of the twentieth century. Going high-tech allows me to transcend the bulk and tonnage of conventional housekeeping systems that lock up so many precious natural resources and generate so much pollution.

It’s gratifying to discover a situation where doing the right thing is easier, cheaper, and far more elegant than lumping along with ill-considered short-lived traditions. The basic domestic agenda to provide for food, clothing, and shelter has not changed in millennia. How that agenda is fulfilled changes with technology. So far, keeping up with the pace of change is both green and cost-effective. I like to choose solutions that are the lowest-tech, most effective, and one or two generations beyond early adoption.


More after the jump.