Friday, June 9, 2017

Lucky Space

One summer's day in the Nineties I spent a few minutes with a couple of friends observing a roiling mass of offspring in the unfinished basement of one's 1920s Dutch Colonial house. The kids had built a fort using the cushions of the partially-eviscerated sofa that faced the tv across a very weary piece of carpet. They were adding anything else they could lift. The other friend, who lived in a new house, looked around at the cement and Doug fir timber of the room with nothing to lose and remarked, "You are so lucky to have a space like this."

I, too, enjoy a basement with nothing to lose. Recently the in-house geek claimed it as his own. The room has been christened Trog, has the fastest Internet in the house, and will soon host a telecommuter. 

The basement and equally unfinished attic spaces are not taxed and save huge amounts of energy. I dry laundry in one or the other as the season suggests, and the production value of the square footage speaks for itself -30- More after the jump.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Running Lights

Long in advance of next winter's need, when it gets dark at 3:30, I contemplated the pedestrian safety lighting on my side bag. Several years' experimentation produced the most convenient format yet for battery-powered lights that let drivers talking on the phone know that I am crossing the street.

The Great Big Hiking Co-op sells little anti-acid sized lights that are designed to loop onto a zipper pull. I put one on each end of my bag, fore and aft. They're useful also for note-making in the middle of the night.

This safety experiment has given me a new appreciation of bling -30- More after the jump.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Crow Park

Several years ago, decades of vegetative growth collided with the growth of the city . I found that the orchard of dwarf trees was crowding the lot while new apartment buildings loomed overhead. It became necessary to open up the garden spaces inside the fence line. 

An obliging tree butcher took the fruit trees down to the ground, exposing irregular patches of turf. I assumed it would take several seasons to restore the fine-bladed old fashioned grass, and it has. What I did not anticipate was how much the local birds would appreciate the open but sheltered area.

The restored lawn is fenced on three sides with a clear line of sight to the area that is not enclosed. The birds seem to be using it as a rest area from the medium density neighborhood that surrounds it. We mow garden waste on the lawn to feed it and to save on solid waste fees. The mowings feed worms that feed birds.

The local crows have grown sociable, and the robins are nearly as complacent as chickens -30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


I bought a cheap car-camping grade enameled steel percolator to replace an over-priced, over-styled tea kettle that died prematurely. My snazzy induction hot plate demands a ferrous vessel. I'd used perks before and was not impressed with the transparent top on the new lid, that allows one to observe coffee boiling counter-productively up through the tube. The new bubble is plastic rather than glass.

The first thing I do with any percolator is recycle the aluminum innards, because the technology is a crime against coffee. The energy advantage of the vertical pot design is green, though. Water boils three times faster than in a conventionally-shaped kettle. It turns out, too, that the plastic bubble is not only presumably cheaper to produce and ship, it's safer to use, being cooler to the touch -30- More after the jump.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Grape Scissors

In a moment of uncharacteristically conscious folly, my partner and I decided that our lives would not be complete until we owned a pair of grape scissors. The silver-plated gizmo is designed to cut just the right-sized personal cluster of grapes off a bunch on a serving dish. Not surprisingly, we found grape scissors at a good price in an antique store in Victoria, B.C. Demand did not seem to be very high. I tucked the scissors into a storage chest and used them now and then, always wondering why I had bothered in the first place. I didn't understand their styling, that whiffed of pretense.

A couple of weeks ago, Pard brought home a couple of especially dense clusters of grapes. Accustomed to using two hands to detach a serving, I found that the scissors are designed to cut and hold their quarry like flower pruners, allowing one-handed retrieval. The design is pure function intended to support graceful upper body gestures at the table. The spurs on the handles give physical advantage to the grip, and the flaring blunted blades allow stealthy access to hidden stems. No more living like an animal, at least for the moment. 

Economist and tool purveyor Paul Hawken extolled the advantages of what he called intelligence in product design. His Next Economy discusses industrial design and the nature of money. Hawken maintains that the price of a barrel of oil is the real currency, or was in 1983. Steve Jobs showed the world what intelligence can do coupled with electricity. The grape scissors and other designs of the late nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries demonstrate the energy advantages built into the human body. A traditionally designed sharp hand tool is often faster to use, cheaper, and easier to store than a higher tech alternative -30-

More after the jump.