Friday, April 28, 2017

Mermaid Culture

The empty nest is filling up again. Partner calls his time his own, and the heir is moving in for a few welcome weeks. The "family  parlor" of this piece of 1812 architecture is lined with work tables and centered on an old farmhouse kitchen table that is infinitely dumpy, gracious, and useful. A corner of the room houses the internet service.

I bought this place to work at home, and long tenure in the neighborhood has seen the transition from forty-hour employment to gigs. The original boutique coffee chain established itself as a third place. I find that the closer I model my life on a coffee shop of any stripe, the happier and easier it becomes.

There's a proper parlor to demonstrate my awareness of the proprieties. The room is upstairs and out of the way, a place to stash the few pieces of formal furniture that are in period with the house. The space is used so seldom that it also makes a good planning room. The dudes are setting up a man cave for their digital needs.

This old nest has evolved into a coffee shop with sleeping and planning space overhead. The situation brings to mind a note from the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, who described the place as "an ace cafe with quite a good museum attached". Priorities are everything -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Over the years many a coffee pot has crossed the threshold. At any one time, I have been able to consider how many are in inventory and count two or three in excess of actual need.

Need comes and goes. So do the pots. The other day an expensively stylish European import of a tea kettle died prematurely. I'd bought it because the new induction hot plate demanded a ferrous vessel, the interior enameling of which failed in several places, treating us to rusty hot water.

I cast about for a replacement and decided that the nearly indestructible two-bit plastic hot pot would do for back-up, but I hoped for something else as well. An equally inexpensive enameled steel coffee pot of ancient design turns out to be a star performer: the tall narrow vessel heats the same amount of water in half the time of the showboat -30- More after the jump.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Flying Machine

A principal of Century Aviation in Wenatchee opened my eyes to the subtleties of flight. During a recent tour of the hanger where she and her partner restore vintage aircraft, Karen Barrow said she had learned aeronautical engineering off the cuff over the course of a career that started with flying lessons and volunteering at a restoration facility. Time brought her hands' on experience with the full history of evolution of the wing. As she gently indicated one of the elements of the wing of a Curtis F, the only one in existence, she mentioned that Curtis had replaced the earlier man-made wing that deformed in imitation of bird technology with the simple aileron.

As we examined the structure at eye level, Karen described the subtleties of its wooden elements, linking marine considerations of flow with those of currents of air. The math is beyond me, but the efficiencies, I believe, are not. I see no distinction between the flow of water and air and the flow of work in a household. It is like choreography: you can break or you can glide. Each has its applications. 

Inspired by Karen's tour, I hit the attic yesterday for a stem to stern edit. Here's the plan: evict anything that is easy to pick up at a nearby store. It's cost effective to let someone else's staff handle ordering, storage, and organizing. Using their services is like having an extra hand under the roof. I cook simply and for the in-house deli, so it's trivial to serve one of the six small meals recommended for knowledge workers by the corporate athlete strategy. We feast in a favorite restaurant that's a short walk away. Most procurement is done by mail order delivered to a shipper's concierge service. I let them do the packing for things I send out. The shipper is a cost-effective replacement for a personal motor vehicle.

These simple changes in practice save me thousands of dollars a year and irreplaceable hours on Seattle's crowded streets -30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Caffeine Theory Of Cyber-evolution

If you remember your first cup of really good coffee, you may agree with the following hypothesis: the world of computers would be nothing had it not been for Pete's Coffee Shop in Berkeley.

Pete had coffee stores in Berkeley and Menlo Park in the early Seventies. The stores had counters where customers were offered free samples and could sit at their leisure to consume the brew. Each store was in a city with a major university. I found that mail ordering this coffee earned me many friends on Seattle's Capitol Hill.

Pete trained three buddies from USF in the art of roasting and brewing fine coffee beans. They named their Seattle operation after the first mate in Melville's "Moby Dick". One of their friends used a Norse goddess as the model for their logo.  He also designed their first store at Stewart and Pike Place. One outfit served Pomme territory, the other served The Empire -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, April 24, 2017

In A Poke

Twice in a row, I've been snookered by pre-packaged bedding that concealed a reverse side different from the one on display. I must tighten up my game.

The first surprise was a sleazy disappointment; the second, from the Great Big Northern European Home Furnishings Chain, left me satisfied but feeling like a slow learner. Their duvet cover is an elegant pin stripe on one side and a solid color on the back. It turned out that the back side was better for my purposes than the front, but I don't like accidents. Structurally, the new cover was an improvement over one I'd bought several years before. Buttons have been replaced by a zipper, and the seaming makes it easier to shake out the duvet in the morning.

Bedding has always been a sensitive consumer area. Early protective legislation assured that fillings did not harbor disease and that fabrics were not toxic. "Good goods", as Paul Hawken calls them, were costly enough to be worth recycling into ever-smaller pieces: a double sheet (the largest of its time) was turned sides to middle as it wore thin. Later a worn item became a crib sheet and eventually a pillow case -30- More after the jump.