Friday, July 24, 2015

Crow Surfing

Waiting to cross a busy intersection in the U District last week, I watched a crow nearly t-bone a small sedan. The bird apparently gauged the turbulence generated by the hood of the car and used it to boost itself out of harm’s way over the roof of the vehicle. It was as fancy a piece of flying as I’ve seen, and Feathers flew on to evade a fellow corvid that was after whatever snack it was carrying.

More after the jump.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wedding Gifts

I was a girl during the hope chest period, when maidens were encouraged to think of marriage as a career in itself. By the time I did take vows, I had a full kit of practical and social necessities. The ensuing decades have been a lengthy shake down period. Along with an amateur’s love of design, I’ve had years to consider the wisdom of owning and maintaining the conventional domestic kit. 

A few core low-tech classics never cease to be useful. A well-designed heavy cooking pot with lid, a sharp professional grade chef’s knife, a good-looking tea kettle, and one truly lovely vase will cover most occasions.

Silver, china, glass, and linen are pleasant to have, though fashion and the market churn inventory wildly and first quality is ever harder to find. Silver was a traditional store of bride wealth. Mid-tech amenities like small appliances, convenience gadgets, and affordable big box chain furnishings are frankly disposable and possibly not the best value. The cost of long-distance moving is a factor to consider. Consider giving first-quality hiking essentials for shower presents. The Great Big Hiking Co-op lists the basics and their functions. They are useful every day, and completing the kit will prepare the new household for healthful recreation and for environmental emergencies.

The next time it is my pleasure to contemplate a wedding gift, I’ll balance enduring value against the technological rate of change. A choice piece of digi-tech trumps so many ordinary furnishings that the usual accessories become so much clutter. I’ll consider picking up a state of the art pepper grinder (flashy from the early Venetian get go) or sterling party horn and contemplate paying down a student loan for largesse. A small amenity of first-quality design in a lasting technology lifts practical improvisation, like a butcher paper table cloth and bundle of markers, into an exercise of genuine artfulness.


More after the jump.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Latest

Since field gear forms the core of my household equipment, and because I’m a gear freak plain and simple, I cruise the aisles of the Great Big Hiking Co-op several times a year. It’s a certain kind of meditation. Last year I discovered the sport of trail running and brought home a handbook of the art of moving fast and light over back country trails.

The book was full of exciting ways to lighten my load. After the dust settled, I realized that the author had recreated the list of gear I used on my 1963 first hike, when Co-op membership numbers had four digits and plastic sandwich bags were high tech. 

Market forces drive miracles of innovation. Shrewd users edit what they’re willing to tote. It’s an elegant process that added a small digital travel scale to my kit and subtracted ten pounds from the total.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


The mid and late Seventies in Seattle saw heated arguments in favor of preserving local farmland from development and of converting abandoned rail right of way into a bicycle trail. Voters approved both strategies.

Thirty-five years later, it is again possible to enjoy local broccoli. City and county authorities are voicing the same arguments in favor of adding lanes to the Burke-Gilman trail that I once heard applied to monstrous freeway projects.

This is good.


More after the jump.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Old School Bed

The recent hot spell brought a move to the basement. It’s not habitable space. The floor joists of the first story form the ceiling, and the history of wiring is exposed for all to see. The odd pest comes and goes from time to time.

Since the hot spell arrived early, I opted to move a real bed downstairs for the duration rather than setting up the usual hiking amenities. Ordinarily, I use a duvet cover rather than fiddle with sheet, blanket, and spread, but for now, I’ll follow the full drill when I get up.

In trying to puzzle out how to manage this place, I read numerous histories of domestic architecture. One mentioned that conventional bedding as we know it developed in eighteenth century France as a way to keep vermin out of the bed during the day.

The basement is clean, and hot weather is as good an argument as any I know for keeping it that way. It is not, however, as well sealed against tiny interlopers as a new structure would be. In this case, it’s worth the trouble to miter corners, tuck tightly, and square off the spread.

More after the jump.