Monday, July 25, 2011

Trying to be French

There is nothing better to soothe and quieten my soul than the repetitive staccato of the pattering rain falling softly from the mist outside my window.  It's a day of gentleness, peacefulness, and contentment.  A day to put my feet up and grab a good book.

If there is but one fault in our family, it is in our obsession with books.  Our kids read books voraciously; we pack them out of our public library by the bagful.  I, in moments of weakness, order them online through or paperback swap.  And at $0.50 per softcover, the local Salvation Army Thrift Store has contributed many times to a rapacious library that I know I can't possibly consume or contain within my lifetime.

Still doesn't change the obsession.  There is something about written thought, preserved on paper, that lures me over and over into a longing to embark on another literary journey.  And without doubt, I have many of such journeys progressing at any one time - all so compelling, all so inviting.  To wander through worlds of stories, ideas, places - each page opening up new avenues and streets I didn't even know were there.  Who can resist such a call?

"The French have a word for this.  When someone goes for a walk with no particular destination in mind, willing to go wherever the wind blows him, that person is a flâneur.  He saunters.  He strolls.  He takes a right out of his apartment building one day, having taken a left yesterday.  He walks until the smell of fresh bread leads him to make his first turn, down a side street with a bakery.  He continues his walk with a fresh Danish in his hand, until a jogger passes him with a sleek gray dog on a leash.  The jogger turns right at the next light so the flâneur does too, going about half a block before he finds himself in front of a stamp and coin store that has always intrigued him.

"Since he is a flâneur he has time to go in.  When he comes back out, he knows that Bhutan, of all places, is known for its postage stamps, which include Walt Disney characters as well as commemorative issues featuring the British royal family.  After that, he chooses his turns based on the associations with the names of the streets, ending up on one he has walked many times before.  This time however, the window boxes in front of one house are full of of freshly planted red geraniums.  He knows the smell so well that he does not know if he is really smelling them or only imagining that he is smelling them.  Either way, life is good for this flâneur.  Because he is going no place in particular, he does not miss a thing.  Plus, this pleasure is affordable.  So far this morning has cost him $1.49, the price of a cherry Danish."  (p. 81 Taylor, Barbara B.  An Altar in the World.  2009 HarperCollins)

Books do that for me.  So today is such a day to embrace the call of the flâneur; pick up that used tome and wander unfettered to see where it will lead.  

Call it a tincture for the soul.

The spattering drizzle is waiting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It all starts (and ends) with the teeth

I've started a new project in the shop.  It's been nice to have the use of a workbench and garage while we were staying in this house, but since our time in Anchorage is coming to a close and we have no firm destination in view after we leave the city, I began to explore ideas for a bench that could be fairly compact; part storage, part work area, part saw bench.....

Ideas come prolifically once you start looking.  And the final push popped into place when I saw Ron Herman's sawbench in the August issue of Popular Woodworking magazine.  A sawbench you could sit on, carve on, saw on, build on.... it wasn't a long leap from there and my new mini bench was born.

Of course, new projects are always worth diversions into unfamiliar territory and it's the first time I threw the ruler away and simply drew the plans with a pair of dividers.  Using 3:5 and 1:3 ratios I worked up something I liked and managed to incorporate a till into the top for my saws.  And with the addition of a few holes in the sides and top, I might even manage to sneak a few dogs and holdfasts in there as well.  Using my kneecap measurement for the height, I soon had all the calculations plugged into place for a materials list. 

After a trip to the box store for some 2X4X96 fir the work began in earnest.  I would like to build this one as simply and traditionally as possible, and will be planing 1 inch stock to edge glue for the sides and ripping 1/2 inch stuff for the till.  The laminated part of the bench beside the till will be 1.5 X 3 inch sections face glued to add a little heft to the top.

Digging up an old handsaw that has rattled in my toolbox for years then got me struggling with the obscure notions of fleam, rake and set.  It's an old saw, and I definitely need the practice learning to sharpen one.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Good Day to be in the Meadow

I went out today looking for a chocolate lily.  It's been blooming everywhere but as yet I haven't photographed it this year.  We had a good rain overnight and the grass was glistening with water drops.  It was a good day for a walk in the meadow.

A good day to try to process some thoughts banging around in my head.

Global Inequality.

It's obvious - I live in a wealthy country.  But the extent of the wealth becomes obscene when measured against the average annual global income.  $9000.00.  That's it.  Average out everyone's income around the world for a whole year and that's what you get.  I'm no Milanovic, and there are all kinds of words and formulas like PPP's (the average income does increase to $11,000 in PPP's) and Gini's that are way beyond me, but I understand enough of it to have that bother me.

Well, to borrow from a well known 12 step program, "Make a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves" is right close to the top.  A good place to start.

OK, I was born in a wealthy country.  I was a sick kid; intussusception requiring surgery within weeks of my birth, adhesion's in my early twenties requiring further surgery, and cancer landing me back in surgery at age 27.  All provided and cared for by the Canadian Health Care system.  A geographical roll of the dice that landed in my favor.

Education?  No problem.  I even had the intellectual capacity to shirk my way through most of my physics and chemistry.  Actually squandered the opportunity - just did enough to make it through.

Went on to fly helicopters for a while.  Did OK.  But a shop teacher told me a long time ago that I had gifted hands.  It's easy for me to tackle things that are mechanical or equipment related.  It comes naturally.

The genetic dice roll if you will.

All a gift.

According to the UC Atlas of Global Inequality someone born in Burundi wouldn't quite have the luck of the draw that I did.  First off, with a mortality rate of children under five reaching close to 20%, even the healthy kids have a lousy shot at the deck.  Not to mention a kid with stomach problems like I had.  I wouldn't have stood a chance of surviving.  And education?  Let's just say with the current illiteracy rate close to 50%, I won't be expecting to see any popping up in my blog audience stats anytime soon.


It makes me wish there was no currency in the world.

No corporations or corruption.

No capitalism.

No consumerism.

It all feels pretty ugly.

Not much I can do about that poor chap in Burundi though.  But the scope of inequality within our borders is just as disturbing.  I'll go back to my native country for a few statistics.  According to Hennessey's Index for February 2011, one child in ten lives in poverty.  1 in 4 if you're aboriginal.  This is in Canada!  The average compensation of the top 100 CEO's for the same year - $6.6 million.  And trust me, the picture in the United States is no better. 

I feel pretty helpless about that.  What can I do?

I guess it starts with awareness.

Then follow with my feelings of entitlement.  If it's all a gift, what can I cling to with a closed fist?


I found my chocolate lily.  But I'm too late.  The season to consider them appears to be over.

There's something strangely disturbing in that.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Photo Study of Seldovia

I'll let the pictures speak for me.  It was a wonderful weekend in a beautiful town.

Canoe Jousting
A Wooden Boat and Water - ahhhh, Tranquility
Chainsaw Carving
Church Bells
Coffee House
??? - Only time will tell