Friday, October 9, 2015


From downtown Seattle, one can get to downtown Tacoma's museums as quickly as to the University District on a local bus. Downtown to Montlake Terrace is ten minutes, off peak, as is the run from downtown to downtown Bellevue.

I won't even think about rush hour. 


More after the jump.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Meditation On A Flashlight

A recent camping trip brought out what I hope are all the glitches in my supply of off-grid lighting. Fortunately I had read the design commentary written by an MIT faculty guy, the cover of which commentary features a coffee pot with the handle and the spout on the same side. The gist of the book is it's not you, it's the equipment. I certainly hope so.

A headlamp is a wonderful thing, and there were two in the party. The switches were so sophisticated, and we use headlamps so seldom, that neither of us could fire up a device. Ancient batteries were no doubt a factor. My snazzy keychain micro-light faded. Fortunately a runner's night light was in working order.

The next day I spent a goodly chunk of change to get various devices operating, ground my teeth in frustration, and eventually just dumped around $150 worth of gadgets and failed fixes.

I'm shooting for a simple one-cell light fueled by a solar rechargeable battery. If I want to wear the thing, I'll tape it to something or other, and all the lights in inventory will be the same.

Post script: the gaffer's tape wrapped around the handle of the light makes it easy to hold between my teeth -30-

More after the jump.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mud Mountain Restroom

A pit stop at a park revealed an exceptionally well designed and maintained facility. The morning was pellucid, the floors freshly washed. What I noticed was that the only seat cover dispenser was mounted on the wall outside the compartments, and that the floor seemed to have been washed with a hose. It was immaculate and rational for a public facility.

The tell in restroom maintenance is the view the user has of the back of the compartment supports. 

More after the jump.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Rain Skirt

The trail running community is advising a long waterproof skirt for weather protection in the field. I'm not quite ready to devote three figures to a garment that, with luck, will spend the foreseeable future in my emergency evacuation kit. I'm also not quite ready to devote a day to fabrication.

The skirt is touted as a practical and convenient way to respond to changes in weather, being fast and easy to put on and take off. Aping a traditional Indonesian tube skirt, I cut open the bottom of a heavy plastic contractor's waste bag, pulled it up to my waist, and tied it in place with the tabs that are used to close it. As an afterthought, I cut two inch fringe around the hem to shed water. 

Rain pants are a related matter. I've tried on several pair and find that the world of outdoor fashion has yet to master a cut I can relate to. As is often the case, I found that considering the historic origins of a thing revealed a simple solution to a complex design consideration. Trousers are plural because they used to consist of two legs that were secured around the waist.

I contemplated fabricating leg tubes from another bag and realized that for my purposes, I can simply open produce bags and tape them below the knee should circumstances demand dry legs. If I need them, I won't care what I look like. The local climate, assuming it holds up, is best managed with a hooded poncho that falls below the knee and can be used as a ground cloth. Tribespeople used a stick to knock water off the brush they were whacking.

The poncho lives in the evacuation kit. I pull it out on the rare snowy day that demands extra warmth over the usual rain layer. As to a skirt, some of my best trail miles have been put in wearing a classic fine wool kilt.

More after the jump.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Easy Planting

The steep bank in front of the house is planted in native perennials. One section was scraped bare of dry fuel during the worst of the summer's drought, leaving an ideal spot to improve the landscape now that a little rain has returned. Last week-end it was a small matter to cut the downy seed heads of fireweed, lay them on bare soil, and cover them with freshly fallen leaves.

I call that gardening at the minimum. The technique has given me a satisfying low-maintenance garden that requires little more than half an hour of a week-end morning to keep presentable.

More after the jump.